LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a state law that effectively eliminated abortions in Kentucky after the state’s two remaining clinics said they couldn’t meet its requirements.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings’ decision was a victory for abortion rights advocates and a setback for the Republican-led legislature, which passed the law in March and then overruled the governor’s veto Democrat Andy Beshear on the measure last week. One of the clinics said Thursday it would immediately resume abortion services.
The new law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and requires women to be examined by a doctor before receiving abortion pills. It also contains new reporting requirements that Kentucky clinics said they could not immediately comply with. Failure to comply can result in heavy fines and criminal penalties.
Jennings’ order did not delve into the larger issue of the new law’s constitutionality. Instead, he focused on clinics’ claims that they are unable to comply with the measure because the state has not yet established clear guidelines.
Jennings, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, said she decided to block the entire law because it lacked information “to determine specifically which individual provisions and subsections are capable to comply with”.
Abortion rights campaigners said they were relieved by the decision, but noted that more rounds were to come in the legal fight.
“It’s a win, but it’s only the first step,” said Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood in Kentucky, where her clinic is immediately resuming abortion services. “We are prepared to fight for our patients’ right to basic health care in court and to continue to do everything in our power to ensure that access to abortion is permanently safe in Kentucky. “
Proponents say the goal of Kentucky’s new law is to protect women’s health and strengthen oversight. Opponents say the goal has always been to completely stop abortions in the state.
Kentucky is among the GOP-led states that have passed restrictive abortion laws in anticipation of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade who established nationwide abortion rights nearly 50 years ago.
Pending in the High Court is a challenge to a law passed in a fifth state, Mississippi, which bans abortion after 15 weeks. The court indicated it would allow Mississippi’s ban to stand, and conservative justices suggested they support Roe’s overturning.
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