ACLU files lawsuit challenging Kentucky anti-abortion bill

Abortion-rights defenders on Thursday carried out their pledge to challenge Kentucky’s latest effort to restrict abortion, even as state lawmakers passed another abortion-related measure.

The federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union aims to block legislation to ban abortion for women seeking to end their pregnancies because of the gender, race or disability of the fetus. The measure cleared Kentucky’s GOP-dominated legislature on Wednesday, and the ACLU immediately said it would take the state to court again over abortion.

That brought a defiant tweet from the state’s anti-abortion Governor Matt Bevin: “Bring it! Kentucky will always fight for life.”

The ACLU obliged on Thursday with its lawsuit that said the bill “strips a woman of her right to have an abortion if the commonwealth disapproves of her reason for seeking the care.”

The suit said the measure is unconstitutional “because it bans abortion, under certain circumstances, prior to viability.” It was filed on behalf of the last abortion clinic in Kentucky.

“Plaintiffs challenge the Act because it undermines their mission to honor and support the decisions their patients make, whether it is to continue or to end a pregnancy based on their own personal circumstances and what is best for themselves and their families,” the lawsuit said.

The ACLU said it filed the suit in anticipation that Bevin will sign it. The measure would go into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

It becomes the fourth federal lawsuit the ACLU has filed since early 2017 to challenge abortion-related laws in Kentucky. The other suits are winding through the courts.

Kentucky’s Republican leaders have aggressively pushed to restrict abortion since the GOP took total control of the state’s legislature in 2017. It’s part of a larger agenda by GOP-dominated legislatures in some states to restrict abortion. Conservatives want to push an abortion case to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the court’s 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The latest Kentucky measure to draw a court challenge would ban abortions based on the fetus’s sex, race, color, national origin — or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of Down syndrome or any disability.

Bevin’s running mate in his re-election bid this year, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, gave the opening remarks in support of the measure during the Senate debate Wednesday.

“House Bill 5 recognizes and affirms that all human life has intrinsic value,” Alvarado said.

The measure would require doctors performing abortions to certify in writing that, to their knowledge, their patient did not want to end her pregnancy because of concern over her unborn child’s sex, race, color, national origin or disability.

Doctors violating the measure would face felony prosecution and the loss of their medical license. Any clinic where a violation occurred would lose its license. Pregnant women would not face penalties. Kentucky’s last abortion clinic is in Louisville.

Meanwhile, Kentucky lawmakers gave final passage on Thursday to another abortion-related bill. It would require that women undergoing drug-induced abortions be informed the procedure can be reversed.

A handful of other abortion-related bills were still awaiting final votes on Thursday — the next-to-last-day of this year’s legislative session in Kentucky. The highest-profile measure would ban most abortions in Kentucky once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

By the Associated Press