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ACLU suing Kentucky over law requiring an ultrasound before abortion

ACLU's Kate Miller testifies against ultrasound bill

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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a legal challenge Monday to a new law that requires women to have an ultrasound before receiving an abortion in Kentucky.

The law, which took effect immediately after Gov. Matt Bevin signed it Monday, requires doctors to show women an image of the ultrasound, describe what it depicts and share the heartbeat of the unborn child if one is present. The bill says a patient may avert her eyes from the ultrasound or ask for the volume of the heartbeat to be reduced.

“Requiring doctors to show every woman ultrasound images and describe them to her — even against her will— violates longstanding constitutional principles, including the right to privacy, the right to bodily integrity, and First Amendment freedoms,” said William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky.

The bill was approved overwhelmingly in the Republican-led state House and Senate Saturday. It was one of two anti-abortion bills passed in the first week of the 2017 General Assembly. The other banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Bevin defended the law Monday on WHAS radio in Louisville, saying he isn’t worried about the lawsuit.

“It’s a shocker, shocker, that the ACLU is suing someone. Unprecedented,” Bevin said sarcastically. “We anticipated as much, that’s what they do, that’s what liberals always do when they don’t like something. They go to the courts, hope to find friendly voices and things.”

The ACLU filed the lawsuit over House Bill 2 in U.S. District Court in Louisville on behalf of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the only licensed outpatient abortion facility in the state.

Bevin noted that the lawsuit named Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, as a defendant and not Bevin, who is a Republican.

“These are the kind of games they are playing,” Bevin said. “They really don’t have any business meddling in our state in this way and yet this is America and this is a right that they have. And frankly America is better for the fact that people have the ability to contest these things and so this too shall pass.”

With the new law, Kentucky joins 25 other states that have laws regarding ultrasounds performed by abortion providers. Kentucky’s law is most similar to those in Wisconsin, Texas and Louisiana, where the provider is required to display or describe the images in the ultrasound.

According to the ACLU, a mandatory ultrasound law in North Carolina that was similar to Kentucky’s was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in 2014.

Daniel Desrochers: 502-875-3793, @drdesrochers, @BGPolitics