ACLU Lawsuit: Abortion ban violates Kentucky constitution

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s new abortion ban is being challenged by abortion-rights supporters, who filed a lawsuit Monday that says women are being “forced to remain pregnant against their will” in violation of the state’s constitution.

The state’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, responded by vowing to fight any “baseless claim” made against enforcing the abortion ban.

The suit takes aim at a 2019 Kentucky law that called for an immediate halt to nearly all abortions in the event that the Roe v. Wade ruling were to be overturned. The state law went into effect Friday — and abortions ended abruptly in Kentucky — when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to end federal constitutional protections for abortions.

Filed in a state court, the suit asks a judge to temporarily block Kentucky’s so-called trigger law along with another state law that attempted to prevent abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The six-week ban was previously blocked by a federal court. But the lawsuit filed Monday said it’s anticipated that an injunction preventing its enforcement will be dissolved in light of the Supreme Court decision last week.

The suit claims that Kentucky’s constitution protects the right to privacy in seeking to block the two abortion bans.

“Because of these bans, Kentuckians are being forced to remain pregnant against their will,” the suit said.

In response, Cameron said the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week signaled that each state is “the authority” on the issue. By passing the trigger law, Kentucky’s legislature “made it clear that most abortions are now illegal,” the attorney general said.

“To be clear, there is no right to abortion contained in the commonwealth’s constitution — and we will stand up against any baseless claim to the contrary,” Cameron said in a statement. “I have always stood strong in defense of life, and I will continue to advocate for our laws, which protect pregnant women and unborn babies.”

Cameron is named in the lawsuit filed Monday in Louisville.

The suit alleges that women are experiencing an “ongoing violation of their rights” under the Kentucky constitution. It was filed on behalf of the two abortion clinics in Kentucky by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.

The suit says that “every day that passes increases the health risks for pregnant Kentuckians unable to access a wanted abortion in the commonwealth.”

The two abortion providers in Kentucky — Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center — suspended those services after the Supreme Court ruling.

“We hope the court blocks Kentucky’s abortion bans to prevent the life-altering harm they are causing,” Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a news release. “Since Friday, Kentuckians have been turned away from appointments and denied the ability to control their own bodies and futures. The impacts will be long-lasting, with countless people enduring serious health risks from forced pregnancy and childbirth, making it harder to escape poverty, and derailing education, career and life plans.”

The request to continue abortion services — through intervention by state courts — could turn into a stopgap effort. In November, Kentuckians will vote on a ballot initiative that, if ratified, would establish that no state constitutional right to abortion exists.

Amber Duke, interim executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said the organization is mobilizing its supporters to “show up at the statehouse and the ballot box to demand our rights to bodily autonomy.” Anti-abortion groups also are vowing to work hard in organizing ahead of the election.

The 2019 trigger measure contains a narrow exception allowing a physician to perform a procedure necessary to prevent the death or permanent injury of a pregnant woman.