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Kentucky protest against Roe reversal

Abortion rights supporters protest the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health decision at the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse in Louisville, Kentucky on June 24, 2022. (Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Kentucky 'Now a Forced-Birth State' After Judge Reinstates Abortion Bans

"We must codify the right to abortion in Congress," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal. "Pregnant people deserve to make their own healthcare decisions."

Jessica Corbett

Reproductive freedom advocates across Kentucky and beyond vowed to keep fighting after a judge on Monday night allowed the GOP state attorney general to enforce a trigger law and six-week abortion ban.

"It is irresponsible and dangerous to prevent people from accessing the care they need."

The trigger law bans all abortions and makes performing one a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The other ban outlaws ending pregnancies around six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant. While both measures permit abortion if the patient's life is at risk, neither allows exceptions for rape or incest.

"For the time being, abortion is illegal in Kentucky. We plan to appeal this order to the Kentucky Supreme Court on Tuesday," ACLU of Kentucky spokesperson Samuel Crankshaw said in a Monday statement just after the appeals court decision.

"Kentuckians deserve better than extremist politicians who will risk your bodily autonomy to score cheap political points," he added. "No Kentuckian should ever be forced to remain pregnant against their will. Despite this setback, we will never stop fighting for your right to make the best decisions for yourself."

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said Tuesday: "Kentucky is now a forced-birth state. They also have one of the highest maternal mortality rates and child poverty rates in the country."

"We must codify the right to abortion in Congress," she declared. "Pregnant people deserve to make their own healthcare decisions."

Republican leaders in several states, including Kentucky, are working to ban abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority overturning Roe v. Wade in late June.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron on Friday filed a request for emergency relief from a Jefferson Circuit judge's July order, which the appeals court temporarily granted late Monday. Cameron, who is running for governor, welcomed the development in a series of tweets.

Reproductive rights advocates and healthcare professionals, meanwhile, are determined to continue ensuring access to and providing abortion.

"Our client, EMW Women's Surgical Center, will stop providing abortion care for the time being," said Crankshaw. "Planned Parenthood, the state's only other clinic, has also stopped providing care. Patients who need abortion services in the meantime should visit abortionfinder.org or abortionfunds.org."

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky (GNHAIK), said Monday that "today is a devastating day for all Kentuckians. Abortion is essential healthcare, and it is irresponsible and dangerous to prevent people from accessing the care they need."

"Make no mistake—this ban goes beyond abortion. It is about who has power over you, who has the authority to make decisions for you, and who can control how your future is going to be," Gibron added. "But it is my promise to the people of Kentucky that Planned Parenthood will never back down. We will always be here for you."

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), said that "tonight, in one fateful moment, Kentuckians saw their reproductive freedom stolen by their elected officials."

"It is devastating and cruel. But the fight is not over," she stressed. "We will explore all options to ensure that people across the state can access abortion services. This is not a game. These are people's lives."

Reproductive rights advocates and Democrats in Congress are advocating for the House-approved Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), which Senate Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have twice blocked this year.

While Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Monday introduced a more limited abortion rights bill, the head of NARAL Pro-Choice America blasted that measure as "just another political stunt."

Collins and Murkowski helped shift the Supreme Court to the right and have refused to support WHPA. Additionally, as a coalition of groups including the ACLU, NARAL, and PPFA pointed out Monday, their new bill "claims to 'codify' Roe v. Wade but fails to do so."

"In fact, it does not expressly prohibit pre-viability abortion bans, leaving states able to continue to pass abortion bans that are denying people access to essential health care across the country," the coalition said, adding that its members continue to call for passing WHPA.


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