Judge temporarily blocks KY’s trigger law banning abortions. Procedure can continue for now

·3 min read
People gather near Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza in downtown Lexington, Ky., on Friday, June 24, 2022 to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. (Ryan C. Hermens/rhermens@herald-leader.com)

A Louisville judge has blocked enforcement of Kentucky’s trigger law banning nearly all abortions, permitting licensed providers to continue offering the procedure until at least next week.

“It is ordered that Plaintiffs have established their right to entry of a restraining order against, and therefore the motion is granted,” Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry wrote in his Thursday ruling.

The restraining order also halts a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy from being enforced, a 2019 law that was previously blocked in federal court.

Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center — Kentucky’s two remaining abortion providers — sued the state on Monday, three days after a statewide trigger law banning abortions locked into place. The ban was triggered to take immediate effect when the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, which had codified federal constitutional rights to abortion for half a century.

Both clinics in their joint lawsuit argue that a right to privacy and bodily autonomy, which includes a right to an abortion, are protected under the Kentucky Constitution.

“Pregnant Kentuckians have the right to determine their own futures and make private decisions about their lives and relationships,” and “access to safe and legal abortion is essential to effectuating those rights,” they wrote in their filing.

The restraining order will be in place until at least July 6, when Planned Parenthood and EMW are scheduled to appear again before Judge Perry to make a case for why the law should be more permanently blocked.

Although the order allows abortion care to continue in Kentucky, it’s not yet clear when the procedure can again start. Shortly after the judge’s order was released Thursday morning, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson told the Herald-Leader “providers are still reviewing options on if/when they can start offering abortion care.”

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who’s challenging the merits of the lawsuit and lauding the General Assembly for enacting a trigger law (“the unborn have the same rights to life as you and me,” he said last week), rebuked Judge Perry’s order.

“In the wake of an historic victory for life at the nation’s highest court, today one judge in Kentucky has, without basis in the Kentucky Constitution, allowed two clinics to resume abortions,” Cameron tweeted. “We cannot let the same mistake that happened in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago to be made again in Kentucky. We will be seeking relief from this order.”

Ahead of the Thursday order, Cameron implored the court to not grant the temporary restraining order, arguing “there is no textual, precedential, or historical support for the argument that there is a right to abortion embedded within the Kentucky Constitution.”

Should a judge decide that there is a right to privacy that protects abortion in the state constitution, Cameron wrote, it “would be directly contradictory to the historical precedent in the Commonwealth and to the will of the people as expressed through their duly elected representatives.”

In a Wednesday hearing, Christopher Thacker, attorney for Cameron’s office, pushed back against the claim that the trigger law caused immediate and irreparable harm to pregnant patients seeking abortions in Kentucky. Thacker chided the state’s two abortion clinics for trying to enact a state version of Roe v. Wade, and said their pursuit did not fully take into consideration “the interest of (an) unborn child.”

With its trigger law suspended for now, Kentucky joins Louisiana and Utah, where trigger laws outlawing abortions have in the last week been blocked by local judges, allowing abortions to resume.

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