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We’re Back in Court this Week Defending Access to Safe Abortion in Kentucky

A Welcome to Kentucky road sign with the name of Governor Steven L. Brashear
Attacks on abortion access have left Kentucky with only one clinic left in the entire state.
A Welcome to Kentucky road sign with the name of Governor Steven L. Brashear
Amber Duke,
Deputy Director, ACLU of Kentucky
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January 29, 2020

The ACLU is back in court today once again to stop Kentucky’s attempt to block access to abortion. We’ve been here before. Over the past three years, the Kentucky General Assembly has passed bill after bill that limits — and even bans — a person’s ability to get an abortion. And time after time, we’ve gone to court to protect people’s rights to get the care they need.    

At issue this week is a law that makes it a crime for doctors at Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic to perform an abortion procedure that is the standard of care. In reality, the law is nothing more than a backdoor abortion ban: It would bar the only procedure available in the state after about 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Following a trial last year, a federal district court blocked the law, finding that it imposed “a substantial obstacle to a woman’s right to an abortion”—as other courts around the country similarly found.  But the Commonwealth of Kentucky appealed, and we are arguing the appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit today.

The commonwealth’s opposition to this type of procedure is blatantly political, not medical. Leading medical experts such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose these bans, saying they interfere with a doctor’s ability to provide the best possible care for their patient.

This restriction is part of a national and statewide strategy to push abortion out of reach. Since Jan. 2011, state lawmakers around the country have enacted more than 400 new restrictions on abortion that force patients to delay care, shut down clinics, and make abortion care unaffordable.

Because of regulations like these, today Kentucky has only one clinic left in the entire state. And the state is trying to force that last clinic to close its doors, leaving Kentuckians with no abortion provider at all. It’s only because we went with the clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, to get a court order that the doors are still open; this case is on appeal. 

Kentucky politicians have passed yet more attempts to block abortion access: a flat-out ban on abortion from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, and a ban based on the patient’s reason for deciding to have an abortion. The ACLU and the clinic went to court, and those laws are all blocked.

Kentucky politicians are determined to stop people who have decided to have an abortion from getting one. But we won’t turn from this fight. We will continue this battle so Kentuckians can get the care they need, and the right to decide what happens to their bodies.

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