Federal judge blocks new Kentucky abortion regulations after clinics complain

A Trump-appointed federal judge has issued a temporary halt to a law that all but banned abortions in the state of Kentucky.

The only two operating abortion clinics in Kentucky were shuttered as a result of the law, being unable to comply with its requirements—but they’re now back in business.

The decision came on Thursday and was made by US District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings, one of the slew of federal judges appointed by President Donald Trump. The temporary block on the law, which was passed in March, is being seen as a victory for abortionists, and a loss for Kentucky’s Republican-dominated legislature.

The state’s Democratic Governor Andy Beshear vetoed the law after it made its way through the Kentucky legislature, but that veto was overridden last week and the measure to ban abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy was enacted.


The legislation also required that a woman be examined by a doctor before receiving abortion pills. The law also contained provisions to restrict the activities and enforce reporting requirements from the two clinics in Kentucky that provide abortion services; with the new ruling, both clinics said they will resume operations immediately.

“This is a win, but it is only the first step,” said Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood in Kentucky, according to the Daily Mail. “We’re prepared to fight for our patients’ right to basic health in court and to continue doing everything in our power to ensure abortion access is permanently secured in Kentucky.”

The two affected clinics—Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center—had filed individual lawsuits with the intent of challenging the law and obstructing its enforcement. Heather Gatnarek, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, exulted in the ruling.

“Abortion remains legal and is once again available in Kentucky,” she told the Daily Mail. “We will always fight to keep it that way here and across the country. 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.”

Jennings’ ruling does not consider the actual constitutionality of the law but focuses instead on technical issues. Her order had to do with the claim by both clinics that they were not able to comply with the new law’s regulations as a result of unclear guidelines. If the state legislature can set up a new set of regulations, however, the law can be enforced as before.

Kentucky’s Attorney General, Republican Daniel Cameron, was disappointed by the ruling but made it clear that the fight is far from over.

“We are disappointed that the court chose to temporarily halt enforcement of the entire law,” he explained in a statement. “This law is constitutional and we look forward to continuing to defend it.”

Meanwhile, this contentious battle occurs in the shadow of a widely-anticipated Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case which will decide whether to weaken or uphold Roe v. Wade. The ruling is expected in late spring or summer, but it remains to be seen whether it will change the complexion of the abortion debate.

Whatever happens, legal wrangling over the issue will continue.


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