Abortions halt in Kentucky
A new pro-life law has immediate effects
Kentucky’s only two abortion facilities abruptly stopped conducting abortions this week after the state Legislature on Wednesday overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a pro-life law. The abortion facilities said they couldn’t immediately comply with all of the legislation’s requirements. They requested judicial relief from a law they said “amounts to a de facto abortion ban.”
The bill, which is 72 pages long, protects babies with restrictions but does not ban abortions. Among other things, it changes the timeframe for legal abortions from 20 to 15 weeks of pregnancy, adds reporting requirements for abortion facilities, prohibits mail-order abortions, and introduces rules for disposing of an aborted baby’s remains. Most new laws go into effect a certain number of days following the end of a legislative session, but this one took effect immediately due to an emergency clause.
Addia Wuchner, the executive director of Kentucky Right to Life who helped with crafting the bill, said she didn’t expect the two Louisville abortion providers, EMW Women’s Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood, to stop performing abortions once the bill passed. “There wasn’t anything that required the closing of an abortion center,” she said. In March, Wuchner told The New York Times that the bill’s purpose was not to end abortion but to “make sure that women have access to all the healthcare they need.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a lawsuit on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Planned Parenthood filed a separate lawsuit and complained in a statement Wednesday that the law piles on “a laundry list of unnecessary abortion restrictions that are impossible for providers to comply with because the commonwealth has not yet set up the mechanisms for complying with the law.” One of those mechanisms, it said, is “registration to provide medication abortion.” The bill requires that “abortion-inducing drugs shall only be provided to a pregnant person by a qualified physician who is registered with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as a nonsurgical abortion provider.”
But Wuchner said the state’s two abortion providers fit that requirement because they are already licensed abortion facilities. She said the purpose of the section was to guard against others entering unregulated into the abortion pill business—an industry that has been rapidly expanded since the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 16 removed requirements for in-person dispensing of the drug mifepristone. That rule change, said Wuchner, was a part of the reason why the bill included an emergency clause.
Angela Cooper, communications director for ACLU of Kentucky, pointed to the list of forms that the new law gives the government 60 days to produce: “As you know, state government kind of moves at its own pace, so the creation of eight new forms that we don’t even know what they will look like is an enormous burden on the providers.” Until those forms arrive, she said, “The abortion providers cannot possibly comply because those forms do not exist.”
Steve Aden at Americans United for Life said the government would not expect the abortion providers to comply at this point: “Due process does require that there be no liability unless and until the law can be followed, which would include the mandated forms.”
According to local news reports, EMW Women’s Surgical Center was closed Thursday, and Planned Parenthood in Louisville remained open for other services but did not conduct abortions. On Friday, Planned Parenthood posted on Facebook, “It is Day 2 of no abortion access in Kentucky. But we’re not going anywhere. If you believe you may be in need of an abortion, reach out to us and we will help you access the care you need.”
Cooper on Saturday said EMW Women’s was still not performing abortions as the facility awaited a court decision regarding their request for a temporary restraining order. She said that could come over the weekend or first thing Monday.
Wuchner compared the Kentucky abortion groups’ reaction to the law with the reaction Texas abortion facilities had in September when that state’s heartbeat act went into effect. “I think it’s to stir anger and emotion and … to stir a public and political outcry,” she said. She celebrated that from Thursday until courts respond to the abortionists’ lawsuit, mothers seeking abortions could have “another 24 hours, perhaps 48 hours, to reconsider their decision.”
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