The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed suit Wednesday to block a new law that bans a common form of abortion in Kentucky for women who are 11 weeks or more pregnant.
The law, which sailed through the state House and Senate, would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion procedure called “dilation and evacuation” on women who are 11 weeks or later into a pregnancy, except in medical emergencies. The procedure, which doctors generally use in the second trimester, was used in 537 of the 3,312 abortions performed in Kentucky in 2016, according to state records.
Opponents of House Bill 454 claimed it would force many women to undergo a procedure that is more costly, takes longer and involves a hospital stay. Supporters of the bill call the procedure, which involves dismemberment of a human fetus, cruel and gruesome.
The federal lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, says the law would block women’s constitutional right to an abortion by forcing them to travel hundreds of miles out of state if they need this abortion procedure.
“We’re suing Kentucky yet again — this time to stop state politicians from banning a safe abortion method,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “This law disregards a woman’s health and decisions in favor of a narrow ideological agenda.”
Since January 2011, state politicians in the U.S. have enacted more than 400 new restrictions on abortion, according to the ACLU.
Elizabeth Kuhn, communications director for Bevin, said the lawsuit was not surprising, but was “disturbing.
“Kentucky’s elected representatives voted overwhelmingly this session to safeguard unborn children against the gruesome practice of live dismemberment abortion,” she said. “Few issues should be as commonsense as protecting the most vulnerable among us from the horrific act of being torn from limb to limb while still alive.”
In Kentucky, the Republican-led General Assembly approved two bills in 2017 to curb abortions. One prohibited abortions in the state at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life is in danger. Another required doctors to present ultrasound results to any woman requesting an abortion. That law was struck down by a federal judge, a ruling still under appeal by the Bevin administration.
Bevin officials also targeted the only abortion clinic in Lexington with a lengthy legal battle that closed it down. Now, Kentucky joins a handful of other states with only one abortion provider: the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C., of Louisville, which also owned the Lexington facility. That clinic also is fighting a lawsuit to prevent its shutdown. A decision is pending in federal court.