Kentucky Legislature Enacts Draconian Abortion Ban, Overriding Governor’s Veto

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood announced late Wednesday that they are suing Kentucky after the state’s GOP-dominated Legislature voted to override the Democratic governor’s veto of a sweeping 15-week abortion ban, an extreme measure inspired by the Mississippi law that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Kentucky Legislature’s vote put the new ban into effect immediately, forcing the state’s only two abortion providers to stop offering care. The law, sponsored in part by Nancy Tate (R27), places severe restrictions on medication abortion. This account for about half of all abortions performed in Kentucky.

By forcing the state’s providers to cease operations, the law will effectively ban all abortions in Kentucky, reproductive rights advocates said. Elizabeth Nash, Guttmacher Institute toldThe Wall Street JournalThe ban could make Kentucky the first state to prohibit abortion at any stage of pregnancy for nearly 50 years.

Planned Parenthood, The national ACLU and the ACLU of Kentucky announced just on the heels of Wednesday’s vote that they are taking legal action in an effort to keep the providers open and operating while the ban, known as H.B. 3 is being litigated. They hope, ultimately, to overturn the law, which they deemed “cruel and unconstitutional.”

These groups claimed that compliance with the new law was impossible by design. The groups pointed out that providers must complete a registration process in order to offer medication abortions under the new restrictions. This is something the state has not yet set up. The organizations also contended that some of the law’s reporting requirements amount to violations of patient privacy.

“Make no mistake: the Kentucky Legislature’s sole goal with this law is to shut down health centers and completely eliminate abortion access in the state,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement. “But we haven’t lost hope — we’re getting to work. Trust us when we say that we will do everything in our power to stop this insidious law from preventing Kentuckians from accessing the vital, time-sensitive healthcare they need and deserve.”

Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, argued that “the Kentucky Legislature was emboldened by a similar 15-week ban pending before the Supreme Court and other states passing abortion bans, including in Florida and Oklahoma, but this law and others like it remain unconstitutional.”

“We urge the court to block this law immediately,” Amiri added, “and ensure that people in Kentucky can continue to access abortion care.”

The Kentucky Legislature’s move came less than 48 hours after Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into lawThis law prohibits healthcare professionals performing abortions at any stage during pregnancy. The Oklahoma law is similar to the Mississippi ban and the Kentucky law. However, it does not include a narrow exception for pregnant women whose lives are in danger.

The Oklahoma ban will take effect in August.

“With the Texas six-week ban in place, many people are traveling to Oklahoma to get care,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, saidIn a statement issued earlier this week. “We’ve sued the state of Oklahoma ten times in the last decade to protect abortion access and we will challenge this law as well to stop this travesty from ever taking effect.”

In 2022 according toThe Guttmacher Institute reports that Republican legislators in 41 states have presented 529 legislative proposals to limit abortion. These restrictions have been implemented in a variety of states, including Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, and even Washington.

As legislation is passed to codify the growing number of state-level abortion bans, it has been a steady stream. Roe v. WadeDespite the opposition of every Republican, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D.W.Va.), the federal law is still stuck in the U.S. Senate. joinedThe GOP infilibustering the legislation in February.

In a statement following the Kentucky Legislature’s vote on Wednesday, U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker — who is vying for Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) seat — said that “women have officially been told their lives don’t matter in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

“H.B. 3 is abhorrent, unconstitutional, and absolutely shameful,” said Booker. “Today’s actions only underscore how critical it is that the United States Senate pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which is exactly what I intend on doing when I am elected this November.”