The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kentucky filed a lawsuit to challenge two new Kentucky laws that would effectively eliminate abortion access in the state. One law is a near-total ban on abortion and the other law would ban abortion based on the specific reasons for the person’s decision, such as a fetal diagnosis. Both laws are unconstitutional bans on abortion, and they intrude into the personal health decisions of women and families.

The federal lawsuit, brought on behalf of the sole remaining abortion provider in Kentucky, seeks to strike down two new Kentucky laws that result in a near-totalban on abortion. Both laws have been temporarily blocked while the case proceeds.

Senate Bill 9would ban abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, a point at which most women do not even know they are pregnant. The six-week ban criminalizes approximately 90 percent of the abortions performed in the Commonwealth. 

House Bill 5 would bar a woman from having an abortion if she decided to have one because of a fetaldiagnosis. It also bans abortions based on the sex, race, national origin, or ancestry of the fetus.   

In their lawsuit, plaintiffs note the reason ban would undermine the relationship between doctors and patients, making it harder for a patient to have an honest and informed conversation with her health care provider. The reason ban will do nothing to improve the lives of Kentuckians with disabilities or improve access to health care, housing, or anti-discrimination protections.  


With the passage of the six-week ban, Kentucky becomes the second state to enact a near-total ban on abortion in 2019. This is the first challenge to such a ban this year. Mississippi has passed a similar ban that is not scheduled to take effect until July 1, 2019. Georgia also passed a similar ban and it has been sent to the governor. Legislatures in several other states, including Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee, are contemplating similar bans.   

The reason ban and the six-week ban are the latest in a string of laws that the Commonwealth of Kentucky has passed or attempted to enforce over the last few years that would impermissibly interfere with a woman’s abortion care, including laws that would have shut down the last remaining clinic in the state. EMW and the ACLU have gone to court to challenge such laws; all have been blocked by the lower courts, although a court of appeals just issued a decision to overrule one of those decisions.  

The Kentucky laws are part of a national strategy to push abortion out of reach. Since 2010, state politicians have passed more than 400 medically unnecessary and politically motivated restrictions that force patients to delay care, shut down clinics, and make abortion care unaffordable. Due in part to these restrictions, Kentucky is one of a handful of states that have only one abortion provider left. 

Plaintiffs are EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C. and Ernest Marshall, MD.; on behalf of themselves and their patients. Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys with the ACLU, the ACLU of Kentucky, Ackerson & Yann, and O’Melveny & Myers. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief to hold Kentucky’s reason ban and six-week ban unconstitutional and unenforceable.  

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