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Federal judge strikes down Ky. abortion law


LOUISVILLE—A Kentucky law requiring doctors who conduct abortions to display and describe a patient’s ultrasound as well as play the fetal heartbeat to the pregnant woman violates the First Amendment rights of those physicians, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge David Hale ruled Sept. 27 in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union’s challenge to the law by the state’s only abortion provider, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, and bans the state from enforcing it.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said the governor was disappointed in the ruling and would immediately appeal it. She said the administration is confident in the constitutionality of law. Similar laws in other states have been upheld and struck down by various courts.

William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, called the ruling “a vindication of the rights of Kentuckians and their physicians.” He noted the ruling “marks a significant victory against the General Assembly’s overreach into the area of reproductive healthcare.”

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, voiced his disagreement with the ruling by saying, “Judge Hale and the ACLU have brought injustice rather than justice to expectant mothers and their unborn children.

“Rather than ensuring a mother is fully informed about the abortion procedure, its risks and consequences, they use wild claims about the First Amendment to shroud the slaughter of sons and daughters,” Chitwood said. “Not only is abortion the only legal form of murder in the U.S., it is an immensely serious medical procedure with significant risks.... Judge Hale and these liberal lawyers want the surgery to be regulated as if it were no more complicated than a doctor’s visit for a sore throat.”

Earlier this year, the state attempted to shut down EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the last abortion clinic in Kentucky, saying it lacked proper agreements with a hospital and ambulance service. The ACLU and a Kentucky law firm sued, arguing that the state was targeting abortion providers for medically unnecessary regulation. Another federal judge blocked the attempt to close the clinic. The trial was held earlier this month.

Kentucky, which had 17 abortion providers in 1978, was trying to become the only state in the nation without an abortion clinic. Besides Kentucky, six other states—North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, Wyoming and West Virginia—have only one such clinic. (BP)

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