Federal judge temporarily blocks enforcement of Kentucky’s new abortion law

The law, HB 3, which came into force last week, bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, restricts access to medical abortion and imposes more requirements on minors to obtain abortions in the State.

HB 3 requires Kentucky’s public health agency, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, to create new forms, including a document for providers to report abortions performed in Kentucky and a document to obtain informed consent before to offer medical abortions. The law also creates a certification program that governs access to medical abortions and states that the drugs can only be administered by “qualified physicians,” but does not specify how physicians must register.

Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, and Kentucky, Inc. quickly challenged the law, arguing that compliance was “impossible” since the bill went into effect immediately and state agency forms and processes were not yet available.

The law “imposes immediate potential for criminal penalties, civil liability … and potential loss of establishment and medical licenses due to non-compliance,” Planned Parenthood wrote in its complaint, adding, “The result is a ban unconstitutional of abortion in Kentucky because plaintiff (along with the other Kentucky abortion clinic) must immediately stop providing abortions.”

Attorney General David Cameron, a Republican who was a defendant in the case, had argued that Planned Parenthood did not need to use or submit the required forms until the Cabinet created them, but could stand comply with the requirement of the law by “simply reporting the required information in a manner that he finds expedient.”

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings of the Western District of Kentucky did not rule on the constitutionality of the law itself, but agreed with Planned Parenthood that additional time was needed to “determine specifically which provisions and under -individual sections are able to conform”.

In the meantime, the Cabinet of Health and Family Services can proceed with the creation of the programs and forms established under the new law.

The restraining order will not remain in effect for longer than 14 days or until an injunction hearing is scheduled or an extension is granted.

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of the Planned Parenthood chapter who sued, called Jennings’ decision a victory and vowed to continue to fight the new law.

“We are prepared to fight for our patients’ right to basic health in court and to continue to do everything in our power to ensure that access to abortion is permanently safe in Kentucky.” , said Gibron.

Cameron, meanwhile, said he was “disappointed” with the decision but would continue to defend the law.

Kentucky’s new law is similar to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban that is currently before the US Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood operates one of only two clinics in Kentucky where abortions are performed.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kentucky, on behalf of the other clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, are suing separately to block the law.

HB 3 went into effect after the Republican-controlled Kentucky Legislature overruled Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the bill.

CNN’s Amanda Musa contributed to this report.

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