Legal /

Kentucky Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Ban

‘This opinion does not in any way determine whether the Kentucky Constitution protects or does not protect the right to receive an abortion,’ wrote Justice Debra Hembree Lambert

Kentucky will be permitted to keep its strict ban on abortions following a ruling from the state’s Supreme Court.

The 2019 regulations, a prohibition on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and a trigger law, have been in place since August of 2022 following the United States Supreme Court’s decision regarding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Neither law grant exceptions if the pregnancy was conceived through rape or incest or if there are severe fetal abnormalities.

Since the overturning of 1973’s Roe v. Wade, the bans have been at the center of a legal battle.

Kentucky’s two abortion providers, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, had challenged the laws after Appeals Court Judge Larry Thompson ruled Jefferson Circuit Judge Mitch Perry could not halt the law from taking effect. In July of 2022, Perry had ruled there was a “substantial likelihood” that the laws infringed on “the rights to privacy and self-determination,” per PBS

In a 150-page ruling released on Feb. 16, Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Debra Hembree Lambert upheld Thompson’s ruling. Lambert wrote a lower court had “abused its discretion by granting the abortion providers’ motion for a temporary injunction.”

“After thorough review, we hold that the abortion providers lack third-party standing to challenge the statutes on behalf of their patients,” the justice wrote. 

“To be clear, this opinion does not in any way determine whether the Kentucky Constitution protects or does not protect the right to receive an abortion, as no appropriate party to raise that issue is before us,” Lambert added. “Nothing in this opinion shall be construed to prevent an appropriate party from filing suit at a later date.”

Lambert did note that “the abortion providers’ arguments that the trigger ban improperly delegates legislative authority and that becomes effective on the authority of an entity other than the General Assembly remain live issues.”

“I do not discount the potential impacts of my decision,” she added. “However, these legitimate concerns cannot be allowed to alter my view of the applicable law.”

Justice Kelly Thompson offered a partially concurring but partially dissenting opinion in which he urged “the trial court to fully exercise its authority on remand by freely allowing intervention by all interested parties so that first party standing may be established for all issues.”

During the 2022 midterm elections, Kentucky voters rejected a proposal to amend their constitution to explicitly state abortion is not a protected right, with just over 53% of voters opposed to the measure and 47% in favor.

The vote followed a high-stakes campaign where abortion rights supporters spent more than $5 million to try to defeat Constitutional Amendment 2 and abortion opponents spent nearly $1 million for its passage,” per the Courier Journal

The American Civil Liberties Union had assisted the state’s abortion providers with the legal challenge.

“Once again, the Kentucky Supreme Court failed to protect the health and safety of nearly a million people in the state by refusing to reinstate the lower court order blocking the law,” said the ACLU-Kentucky in a joint statement with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Even after Kentuckians overwhelmingly voted against an anti-abortion ballot measure, abortion remains banned in the state.”

“We are extremely disappointed in today’s decision, but we will never give up the fight to restore bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom in Kentucky. This fight is not over,” the statement concluded. 

The organization urged  Kentucky residents who want to get an abortion to visit and for assistance. 

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