Politics & Government

Lawmakers decide women cannot abort over health of fetus. ACLU sues.

The American Civil Liberties Union has expanded its lawsuit against a controversial bill state lawmakers approved to restrict abortions sought because a fetus is unhealthy to include another one that bans abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The ACLU of Kentucky amended its lawsuit Friday after state lawmakers late Thursday night approved and sent to Gov. Matt Bevin for his consideration Senate Bill 9, the so-called fetal heartbeat bill.

On Thursday, the ACLU filed in U.S. District Court in Lousvil

After the Senate vote, the ACLU said in a news release it would file a lawsuit on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the only licensed center in Kentucky offering abortion services.

That lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Louisville. It seeks a temporary injunction to keep the measure from taking effect.

ns with lawsuits in federal court — immediately issued a statement declaring its intent to sue if Bevin signs the bill into law, as expected. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a woman’s right to privacy guarantees her control over her pregnancy during the first trimester. Courts in other states have struck down similar fetal heartbeat bans, including the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

A day after the Kentucky Senate approved a controversial bill to restrict abortions sought because a fetus is unhealthy, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the law on behalf of the only remaining abortion provider in the state.

The Senate gave final passage to House Bill 5 on a 32-4 vote Wednesday and sent it to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Bevin indicated on social media that he will sign it into law. “Bring it!” said Bevin. “Kentucky will always fight for life... Always!”

The bill would take effect immediately upon his signature.

It bars a woman from having an abortion if she decided to have the procedure because of a fetal diagnosis. It also would ban abortions based on the sex, race, national origin or ancestry of the fetus.

After the Senate vote, the ACLU said in a news release it would file a lawsuit on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the only licensed center in Kentucky offering abortion services.

That lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Louisville. It seeks a temporary injunction to keep the measure from taking effect.

“Decisions about whether to end a pregnancy must be made by the woman and her family. But this law takes the decision away from them and hands it over to politicians,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

Heather Gatnarek, staff attorney at the ACLU of Kentucky, said passage of the bill “represents a thinly veiled effort of the Kentucky General Assembly to advance their anti-abortion agenda under the guise of an anti-discrimination bill.”

“This law will do nothing to improve the lives of Kentuckians with disabilities,” she said. “In fact, a number of bills that would have addressed health care, housing and updated anti-discrimination protections were not even given a hearing in this legislation session.”

Crystal Staley, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is a Democratic candidate for governor this year, said lawmakers have chose to “focus on issues that divide us.”

“A challenge to this legislation has already been announced and he believes the challenge will be successful in court,” Staley said.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, failed Wednesday to change the bill. He offered an amendment to provide that the health expenses of any person born with Down syndrome or any other disability, whose mother would have had an abortion if not for the prohibition, would be covered by Medicaid or a private health benefit plan at no cost to the person or his or her mother.

“I want this child to have every chance in life,” Thomas said before the Senate voted 30-7 not to accept it.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, handled the bill in the Senate. He said Thomas’ amendment was “unfriendly” to the bill. Alvarado, a physician, is running for lieutenant governor this year on Bevin’s re-election ticket.

The ACLU noted that the bill is the latest in a string of measures that the state has passed or attempted to enforce over the last few years that would “impermissibly interfere with a woman’s abortion care, including laws that would have shut down” the EMW Center.

EMW and the ACLU have gone to court to challenge three such laws and all three have been blocked, the ACLU said.

On Thursday, the Senate gave final passage to another abortion bill on a 31-4 vote and sent it to Bevin.

Senate Bill 50 originally required doctors to report any prescriptions for abortion-inducing drugs to the state’s Vital Statistics Branch but was changed in the House to add a provision that would require doctors to inform their patients seeking a medication-induced abortion that the procedure can be reversed.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists rejected those claims in 2017, saying that abortion reversal treatments “are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards.”

Gatnarek, with the state ACLU, said the passage of the bill “represents an effort by anti-abortion politicians that say they care about the health and safety of women, to force doctors to give unproven information to their patients.

“The practices around so-called ‘abortion reversal’ are not supported by science and interfere with the the trusting relationship patients should be able to build with their medical providers. We will monitor the implementation of the bill.”

Several Democratic lawmakers said the bill would force doctors to give their patients inaccurate information.

“This is requiring health care professionals to give false and misleading information to people and their families,” said Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville.

Marzian also took issue with the original provision of the bill, saying that most other prescriptions related to patients’ private lives aren’t monitored. She filed an amendment that would require doctors to report any prescriptions for erectile dysfunction medication, but House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, shot down the amendment, saying it wasn’t related to the bill the House was debating.

Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandensburg, was among those who defended the bill, saying she would want her doctor to share as much information about the medication as possible.

The Senate also gave final passage and sent to Bevin Thursday night House Bill 148. It says if the U.S. Supreme Court ever rules that abortions are illegal, Kentucky would prohibit abortions.

  Comments