Forty-two years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a woman's right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade.
The seven to two decision in 1973 said a woman's right to privacy allowed her to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.
Most people under 50 don't remember the world of women's reproductive rights before Roe v. Wade. In the 1950s and '60s, illegal or self-induced abortions were commonplace and thousands of women, particularly poor women, were hospitalized for complications from botched procedures.
As many as 200 women died in 1965 because of illegal or self-induced abortions.
Roe v. Wade not only preserved reproductive and personal freedoms, it also dramatically improved the health and welfare of women by allowing access to safe and legal abortions.
Yet despite that decision decades ago, Kentucky politicians still try to restrict the rights of Kentucky women with legislation designed to interfere with reproductive health decisions.
On Jan. 9, the Kentucky Senate passed Senate Bill 4 mandating an in-person counseling session between a woman and her physician 24 hours before an abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.
Kentucky law already requires a woman to receive state-directed counseling before an abortion, but SB 4's forced-delay requirement necessitates two separate trips to a health professional before the procedure is performed.
The bill prohibits using telemedicine, which allows doctors to communicate with their patients remotely, although it is permitted for many other procedures.
This legislation places an undue burden on women, particularly those outside Louisville or Lexington, or who are paid by the hour. It could cost these women $250 to $700 in travel, childcare and lost wages to comply with the proposed law. Like most anti-abortion bills, SB 4 is designed to make it more difficult and more onerous to get abortions in Kentucky.
The Senate is also expected to consider another bill that will force physicians to perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion and mandate that doctors provide detailed descriptions of the fetus to their patients, regardless of the best medical judgment of the woman's physician, or face substantial fines.
These bills are not just troublesome for Kentucky's women and physicians, they are also detrimental to Kentucky taxpayers.
The states of Idaho and Kansas each spent more than $1 million in legal fees in recent years defending unconstitutional anti-abortion laws. In South Dakota, the attorney general estimates his state will spend $1.75 million to $4 million defending these laws.
Kentucky — which endured a $91 million budget shortfall last fiscal year, has a dwindling reserve fund, and is dealing with an unfunded public pension crisis — can ill-afford to waste taxpayer money and other valuable resources defending politically motivated anti-abortion laws. If other states' experiences are any indication, the laws will likely be struck down as unconstitutional. As a result, Kentucky taxpayers will be forced to pay not only the legal fees incurred defending these laws, but also the legal fees of the attorneys who challenged them.
Unfortunately, during this long litigation process, the health of Kentucky women and livelihoods of their physicians will be impaired — precisely the result that anti-abortion legislators seek to achieve.
Kentucky women, physicians and taxpayers deserve better from their elected officials — no different today than when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.
For more information of the ACLU's 60 years of work toward reproductive freedom in Kentucky, visit www.acluky.org/anniversary.