Abortion States: Kentucky Ban on Pausing, Allowing Abortions to Resume; judge to block Florida’s 15-week ban

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky judge temporarily blocked that state’s near-total ban on abortions on Thursday, while a Florida judge said he would temporarily block a 15-week ban from taking effect there , as judges across the country weigh whether state constitutions allow the proceeding after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last week.

Kentucky’s decision suspends that state’s so-called trigger law, which was designed to go into effect after the nation’s highest court ruled to end federal constitutional protections for abortions. The case reflects battles fought in courts across the country after the Supreme Court left it up to states to decide whether abortion is legal within their borders – forcing rights groups to abortion to look to state constitutions for protection.

Some of the legal disputes involve trigger laws — like those in Kentucky and Florida — that were specifically designed to take effect if Roe were to fall. Some involve prohibitions that have been on the books, unenforced, for generations. Others involve abortion bans that were suspended pending the Roe ruling and are now moving forward.

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In Florida, Judge John C. Cooper said Thursday he would temporarily block the 15-week abortion ban from taking effect after reproductive health providers argued that the state constitution guaranteed the right to procedure. Cooper said Florida’s ban was “unconstitutional in that it violates the secrecy provision of the Florida Constitution.”

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said the state would appeal.

Cooper’s decision won’t go into effect until he signs a written order – which didn’t seem to happen until Tuesday – meaning the 15-week ban will likely go into effect on Friday, as scheduled . The discrepancy raises questions about whether some patients would be affected. Current Florida law allows abortion up to 24 weeks, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the vast majority of abortions in the state occur before the 15-week deadline.

The flurry of legal activity has confused states and left patients and clinics scrambling.

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In Arizona, the attorney general said Wednesday that a total abortion ban that had been on the books since before the state was formed could be enforced, though the governor disagreed and said that a new law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks prevails. Abortion providers in that state immediately stopped performing the procedure for fear of prosecution.

In Louisiana, this attorney general has warned doctors against abortions, even if a ban is temporarily blocked there.

Florida law contains exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the life of the pregnant person, prevent serious injury, or if the fetus has a life-threatening abnormality. It does not allow exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking.

Reproductive health providers challenged the law based on a 1980 state constitutional amendment guaranteeing a broad right to privacy, which was interpreted by the state Supreme Court to include abortion. Florida voters reaffirmed the right to privacy in 2012 by rejecting a ballot initiative that would have weakened its protections, the plaintiffs said.

The state argued that abortion providers lacked standing to claim a personal right to privacy because they were acting as a third party on behalf of their patients. The attorneys also said the state’s constitutional right to privacy does not include the right to abortion, arguing that the state has an interest in protecting health and protecting potential life.

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In a statement, DeSantis said the Florida Supreme Court previously misinterpreted Florida’s right to privacy to include the right to abortion. He said the state rejects this interpretation “because the Florida Constitution does not – and never has included – the right to kill an innocent unborn child.”

In Kentucky, Thursday’s ruling allowed abortions to resume after their abrupt end last week. Heather Gatnarek, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said nearly 200 women with scheduled appointments have been turned away from the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, one of two abortion clinics in Louisville, the latter days.

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood released a joint statement saying they were glad the “cruel abortion bans” had been blocked, adding that since last week’s decision, “many Kentuckians have been forced to wear pregnancies against their will or to flee their country of origin in search of essential care”. Despite this victory, we know that this fight is far from over.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said Thursday’s decision had no basis in the state constitution and he intended to challenge it.

“We will do all we can to continue to uphold this law and to ensure that unborn life is protected in the Commonwealth,” he said in a statement.

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Kentucky’s decision came after abortion clinics filed a lawsuit saying women were “forced to remain pregnant against their will” in violation of the state constitution. They had asked the judge to temporarily block the trigger law as well as another Kentucky law that tried to prevent abortions at six weeks pregnant.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mitch Perry also agreed to temporarily block the six-week ban. This measure had previously been stopped by a federal court.

The Kentucky measure contains a narrow exception allowing a doctor to perform a procedure necessary to prevent the death or permanent injury of a pregnant woman. It does not allow abortions in cases of rape or incest.

Kentuckians will vote in November on a ballot initiative that, if ratified, would establish that there is no state constitutional right to abortion. Both sides of the abortion debate are busy organizing ahead of the election.

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