September 28, 2017

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal court today issued an order that strikes down an anti-abortion law that forced doctors to display and describe a patient’s ultrasound, as well as to play the fetal heartbeat, even if the doctor believed it would harm the patient or it was against her wishes.

“We are pleased that Kentucky women will no longer be subjected to this demeaning and degrading invasion into their personal health care decisions. This ruling puts us one step closer to getting Kentucky politicians out of the exam room,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

The decision recognized that by “forcing ultrasound images, detailed descriptions of the fetus, and the sounds of the fetal heartbeat on [patients], against their will, at a time when they are most vulnerable,” the law “appears to inflict psychological harm on abortion patients,” and causes women to “experience distress as a result.” In addition, “requiring physicians to force upon their patients the information mandated by the law has more potential to harm the psychological well-being of the patient than to further the legitimate interests of the Commonwealth.”

This victory comes at a time when the Commonwealth is trying to make it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for a woman to get an abortion. Earlier this year, the state attempted to shut down EMW Women's Surgical Center, the last abortion clinic in Kentucky. The ACLU and a Kentucky law firm sued, arguing that the state was targeting abortion providers for medically unnecessary regulation. Another federal judge blocked the attempt to close the clinic. The trial was held earlier this month.

Last June, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court struck down similar laws requiring doctors who provide abortion care to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

“This is a vindication of the rights of Kentucky women and their physicians, and it marks a significant victory against the General Assembly’s overreach into the area of reproductive healthcare,” said William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky.

The plaintiffs in the case are represented by the ACLU, the ACLU of Kentucky, and the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers.

More on this case can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/emw-womens-surgical-center-v-beshear

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