Judges in Florida and Kentucky on Thursday approved temporary restraining orders blocking laws that put limits on abortion, the latest ruling as abortion rights advocates slam such restrictions state-by-state.
Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade Friday paved the way for two separate so-called trigger laws in Kentucky — one that bans abortions passed in 2019 and another that prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The 2019 law also makes it a category D offense to provide abortions to patients in the state.
“A Kentucky Circuit Court has upheld the state’s total abortion ban and six-week ban, granting our request for a restraining order,” The ACLU of Kentucky said in a statement Thursday.
“Abortion is once again legal in the Commonwealth. Our legal team is reviewing the order to determine when our client can resume care.”
The lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood and the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which was represented by the ACLU, argued that the laws violate the Kentucky Constitution’s rights to self-determination and privacy of bodily integrity.
“A person who is required by the government to remain pregnant against her will—an important physiological process that affects one’s health by 40 weeks and results in the birth of a child—to keep and control her own person.” experiences the interference of the highest order with its authority,” the suit stated.
“The right to self-determination thus protects the power of Kentuckians to continue or terminate their pregnancy,” it continued.
Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center are the only two clinics that are licensed to perform abortions in Kentucky and are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry heard arguments from both the state and the ACLU.
“Well, it’s a close call,” Perry said at the end of Wednesday’s hearing.
Although the law states that physicians must do everything possible to save the lives of both the fetus and the mother, the lawsuit argues that pregnancy poses a variety of dangers to a person beyond just physical complications. The complaint listed several dangers associated with pregnancy, including a high risk of intimate partner violence, poverty and mental health issues.
The ACLU argued that forced pregnancies cause irreparable harm to residents of Kentucky.
Christopher Thacker, with the Office of the Attorney General of Kentucky, argued that a restraining order was unnecessary because the parties before the court were businesses and not Kentucky residents who could be harmed by the law.
“None of those parties can bear the brunt of the proposed constitutional rights because they cannot become pregnant,” Thakar said.
He told the judge that there is no constitutional right to practice medicine or a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
In Florida, Leon County Judge Cooper will issue a temporary restraining order on a 15-week abortion ban. Cooper on Thursday called the ban a violation of the privacy provision of the Florida Constitution.
“This will be a statewide temporary injunction,” Cooper said of his order. “It will only take effect if I sign an order, so it won’t happen today.”
Planned Parenthood and several other medical centers filed a legal complaint to stop the law, which was signed Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in April and was set to take effect from Friday.
The ACLU also represented clinics in Florida, saying in a press release Thursday that the bill would imprison doctors for providing essential care to their patients. Daniel Tilley, the legal director of the ACLU of Florida, said Cooper’s decision “reflects the will of the people.”
“Despite the efforts of Gov. Ron DeSantis and extremist Florida politicians, we have the power to fight against these attempts to impose our brutal agenda on Floridians,” Tilly said. “We will continue to do this to ensure that no one is forced to conceive against their will.”
Kentucky and Florida were two of several states where such limits on pregnancy termination were set to remain pending pending a Supreme Court majority opinion.
The ACLU filed another petition for relief in Ohio on Wednesday challenging a ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat was detected.