On Thursday, a federal judge temporarily blocked an omnibus package of abortion restrictions that effectively ended legal abortion in Kentucky as of April 13. The decision opens the door for the state’s two clinics, EMW Women’s Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood, to resume providing abortions—at least for now.
The bill, H.B. 3, contained not only an unconstitutional 15-week ban, but also required Kentucky providers to report extensive, unnecessary information about each patient to the state and required providers of medication abortion to register with the state. Providers said it was literally impossible to comply with certain provisions because the state systems didn’t yet exist, so they felt forced to stop providing abortions rather than be accused of breaking the law.
Both Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits challenging H.B. 3, which only went into effect after the Kentucky legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Andy Beshear (D).
The temporary injunction of the law is just that—temporary. Kentucky’s Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron (yes, that Daniel Cameron) opposes abortion and could appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Kentucky.
“We’re grateful for the temporary restraining order (TRO) restricting this egregious abortion ban from continuing to block a constitutionally protected right to basic care. This is a win, but it is only the first step,” Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, said in a statement. “We’re prepared to fight for our patients’ right to basic health in court and to continue doing everything in our power in ensure abortion access is permanently secured in Kentucky.”
ACLU staff attorney Heather Gatnarek said: “With the court’s order blocking H.B. 3, EMW is once again able to provide abortion care to people in Kentucky as they have done for decades. Patients seeking an abortion should reach out directly to EMW Women’s Surgical Center or Planned Parenthood to have their questions answered and schedule appointments.”
But Gatnarek previewed what’s to come. “Unfortunately, the ability to receive an abortion will continue to hang by a thread throughout the United States. In a few weeks, the Supreme Court will decide whether to weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade,” she said. “If they do, roughly half of U.S. states could choose to quickly ban access to some or all types of abortion care. This would be devastating, particularly for people who have the fewest resources and are historically marginalized, including people of color, people with low incomes, young people, and people who live in rural areas.”
If the Supreme Court overturns Roe this summer, Kentucky is one of 13 states with a “trigger ban,” or a law that would outlaw abortion should Roe fall, while 10 more have other laws that would allow them to ban abortion.