Court lets stand Kentucky abortion law on ultrasounds
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A federal appeals court said Friday it won’t reconsider a ruling that upheld a Kentucky law requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients prior to abortions.
Kentucky’s anti-abortion governor, Republican Matt Bevin, hailed the decision. The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the state’s only abortion clinic, said it was disappointed and will evaluate options. Its only recourse would be appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In April, a divided panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the 2017 law is constitutional, reversing a lower court judge. The ACLU then asked the entire appeals court to review the ruling. The appeals court rejected the request Friday.
“This ultrasound bill will stand,” Bevin said in comments on social media. “The people of Kentucky will have their voice heard. Life will be preserved.”
Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, called it a disappointing decision on a law that “intrudes on Kentuckians’ personal health care decisions.” She said the law was part of a broader strategy by anti-abortion politicians to “push care out of reach and shame people seeking abortion.”
“The ACLU remains committed to ensuring that everyone in Kentucky seeking abortion can do so without stigma or judgment,” she said in a statement.
Bevin said the law reflects the state’s “pro-life” beliefs, adding: “And we won.”
Kentucky is among several Republican-dominated states seeking to enact restrictions on abortions as conservatives take aim at the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Energized by new conservatives on the Supreme Court, abortion opponents in multiple states hope to ignite new legal battles that could prompt justices to revisit Roe v. Wade.
Kentucky’s ultrasound law was enacted soon after the GOP took complete control of the state’s legislature. The statute drew an immediate challenge from the state’s last abortion clinic.
It requires doctors to describe the ultrasound in detail while the pregnant woman listens to the fetal heartbeat. Women can avert their eyes and cover their ears to avoid hearing the description or the fetal heartbeat. Doctors failing to comply face fines and can be referred to the state’s medical-licensing board.
In Kentucky, the ultrasound law is just one front in a bitter legal feud as the Republican-led legislature passed a series of abortion-related measures.
A federal judge recently struck down another Kentucky abortion law that would halt a common second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies. Bevin immediately said his legal team would appeal.
Two of the state’s newest laws aimed at putting more restrictions on abortion were temporarily blocked pending resolution of legal challenges from the ACLU.
One of the measures would mostly ban abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. The other would ban abortion for women seeking to end their pregnancies because of the gender, race or disability of the fetus.