Kentucky Supreme Court allows pro-life laws strictly limiting abortion to stand pending review

After the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down Roe v. Wade’s precedent on abortion rights with its Dobbs decision in June, several states, including Kentucky, swiftly enacted so-called “trigger” laws that automatically banned most abortions, which has led to more legal fights at the state level.

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday declined to grant a requested block on two pro-life laws and instead allowed those laws to remain in effect, even as the high court agreed to take up a challenge against those laws by abortion advocates and providers, the Conservative Brief reported.

Needless to say, the two abortion clinics that have challenged the two laws, as well as pro-abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union that support their lawsuit, were quite displeased with the court’s ruling and vowed to continue the legal battle.

Court declines to reimpose injunctions

At issue here, according to the Associated Press, are two laws passed by Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature that automatically went into effect after Roe v. Wade was struck down, the first a “trigger” law that bans virtually all abortions and the second a “fetal heartbeat” law that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, with the only allowable exceptions being the life and physical health of the mother.

A circuit judge in Louisville had issued an injunction to block both of those laws in July, but an appeals court judge lifted that injunction earlier in August and allowed the two abortion bans to go into effect, which led the case to the state’s Supreme Court with a request to reimpose the injunctions while litigation continues.

However, a majority of the Kentucky Supreme Court determined that the arguments and concerns put forward by the pro-abortion advocates about the laws in question “do not rise to the level of extraordinary cause,” and therefore declined to reinstate the circuit court’s injunctions.

That said, the high court did agree to take up the case and set a schedule for both sides to submit briefs ahead of a hearing on Nov. 15, a date that, interestingly enough, will come one week after Kentucky voters either approve or reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would explicitly exclude abortion as a right of the people.

Dueling statements from abortion advocates and pro-life activists

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that it was a 5-2 decision by the Supreme Court to allow the two pro-life laws to remain in place, though there was some disagreement among the majority about how that decision was reached and the actions of the lower courts.

“Make no mistake: abortion bans result in tragic health outcomes and are a form of control over our bodies,” the two clinics said in a joint statement with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU about the high court’s ruling. “Despite this setback, the fight continues. We will proceed with our case to restore and protect reproductive freedom in Kentucky. Politicians and the government should never have the authority to force a person to remain pregnant against their will.”

Addia Wuchner, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life, said her pro-life organization was “ecstatic” about the ruling, though, and added in a statement that “This means that babies and mothers are safe from abortions in Kentucky for now” and that her group would continue its own fight to “stop the radical abortion agenda in our state.”

Differing views from Democratic governor and Republican attorney general

The Courier-Journal noted that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) denounced the high court’s decision to leave the “extremist laws” with limited exceptions in place and said, “I think that’s wrong and I think the majority of Kentuckians agree with me.”

State Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R), who is running to replace Beshear as governor and has defended the laws against the legal challenges, praised the ruling from the court and said, “We are pleased with this victory for life and the rule of law and will continue to prepare for the arguments the court has scheduled.”

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