Judge Strikes Down Total Abortion Ban In Kentucky

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Abortions will remain accessible in Kentucky up to 15 weeks of pregnancy after a decision on Friday by Jefferson Circuit Judge Mitch Perry to extend the block on enforcing two state laws banning abortion in almost all circumstances.

Perry’s decision puts the block into effect until the matter is resolved at trial in his court, although any eventual outcome would no doubt be appealed. Perry’s order affects a state law that was designed to ban almost all abortions in the event Roe v. Wade was overturned, as it was recently, and another law banning abortions after some six weeks of pregnancy. There are evidently limited exceptions available under these restrictions, including to save the lives of pregnant people or prevent certain serious injuries to such individuals — but that set-up isn’t some kind of model of compassion. What if doctors are unclear on whether a certain pregnant person’s situation reaches the level of danger where they’re allowed to act?

As court proceedings continue, Perry concluded the abortion restrictions violated state constitutional provisions, like protections for religious freedom. Perry said that right is affected by the decision of Kentucky officials behind the restrictions to essentially define when life begins according to a particular religious framework — conservative Christianity — excluding those of other faith traditions who approach the question differently. Per Perry’s assessment, Kentucky officials employed “a distinctly Christian doctrine of the beginning of life… unduly interfering with the free exercise of other religions that do not share that same belief.” Among other points, the judge also concluded abortion to be a form of healthcare, which weighed on his decision-making about whose interests should be upheld when deciding whether to let the abortion restrictions stand.

“Plaintiffs assert, and this court agrees, that abortion is a form of health care,” the judge stated. “It is provided by licensed medical professionals in licensed medical facilities, just like many other medical procedures… As such, the denial of this health care procedure is detrimental to the public interest.” Perry’s issues with the abortion restrictions weren’t finished there: he also pointed to an apparent violation of state standards for equal protection since, with the restrictions in place, prospective organ donors maintained more rights for what could be done with their bodies than pregnant individuals. Perry also pointed, apparently in the same context, to the difference in who faces the impact from the restrictions among those who may become pregnant and those who don’t have that ability. Referring to the impact of the laws, the judge said: “This is a burden that falls directly, and only, on females. It is inescapable therefore, that these laws discriminate on the basis of sex.”

Perry also noted, among other issues, apparent violations of self-determination and privacy rights, in addition to the staggering level of investigative work that would be required of the state under the abortion restrictions in relation to any miscarriages throughout Kentucky. Predictably, Kentucky Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron indicated he’ll be sticking by the push to allow the abortion restrictions’ enforcement. The Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe meant state officials were now free to regulate abortion according to their political ambitions, no matter the potential health consequences for constituents.