LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) — A federal judge on Thursday barred several major elements of a multi-faceted pro-life bill after a month of legal proceedings.
Kentucky’s two abortion providers, EMW Women’s Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood, filed a lawsuit against House Bill 3 immediately after the legislature overruled a veto by Governor Andy Beshear in April. Although the measure changes and strengthens several areas of Kentucky’s restrictive abortion laws, clinics filed a lawsuit claiming they could not immediately comply with certain provisions because mandatory forms did not yet exist. .
The Cabinet of Health and Family Services, which is responsible for developing the forms required by HB 3, argued that the bill is an unfunded mandate. The General Assembly did not appropriate funds for the Cabinet in the bill.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings blocked the law’s 16 sections imposing requirements on Cabinet “so long as HB 3 remains unfunded or until forms, regulations, and programs are implemented by Cabinet,” noting that under Kentucky law “a bill that requires funding to execute but does not contain a funding provision cannot take effect immediately.”
EMW also challenged the 15-week abortion ban grafted onto HB 3, but Jennings has suspended that part of the law until the Supreme Court rules in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization this summer. . The issue for the High Court in this case is another 15-week abortion ban, but Mississippi has also sought to have Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey – two landmark abortion rights cases.
Jennings noted that the 15-week ban was a substantial impediment to “a constitutionally protected right to a pre-viable abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment,” creating “an undue burden in the path of a woman seeking an abortion from a non-viable fetus”. ”
“Kentuckians can breathe a sigh of relief that these extreme restrictions will remain in place and abortion will remain accessible for the time being,” said Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana & Kentucky. “For almost a week, we have been prevented from providing this essential and urgent healthcare. We cannot go back. Planned Parenthood will work day in and day out to preserve our patients’ ability to access essential healthcare, no matter what.
“Abortion remains legal and available in Kentucky and we will always fight to keep it that way,” said ACLU Kentucky attorney Heather Gatnarek.
Addia Wuchner, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life, said Thursday’s ruling wasn’t the end of it.
“We are disappointed with Judge Jennings’ decision today, but hope the Attorney General and his team move us forward in the appeal process,” Wuchner said.
“Today’s order from the federal district court staying the operation of certain provisions of the Humanity in Healthcare Act (House Bill 3) is disappointing, but this case is far from over,” said the Attorney General Daniel Cameron in a statement. “We immediately filed a notice of appeal with the United States Court of Appeals and will take all available steps to continue to defend this important law, which protects the unborn life and health of women.”
The decision left few of the sweeping provisions of HB 3 intact, and abortion services can continue as normal in Kentucky until the Cabinet develops the forms and programs mandated by the bill or the Supreme Court gives following a leaked draft notice indicating their willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade. Kentucky has a trigger ban that would immediately make abortions illegal in the Commonwealth if the High Court throws out Roe and returns abortion regulation to the states.