The American Civil Liberties Union announced March 14th it will file a lawsuit on behalf of the sole remaining abortion provider in Kentucky challenging a near total ban on abortion. The announcement comes immediately after the Kentucky legislature passed Senate Bill 9, a bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy before most women know they are pregnant.

The law is scheduled to take effect upon the governor’s signature and the lawsuit will seek immediate relief to prevent the law from going into effect.

“Taking another page straight out of the anti-abortion playbook, Kentucky became the latest state to pass a law that will ban abortion before most women know they’re pregnant,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “These bans are blatantly unconstitutional, and we will ask the court to strike it down.”

Heather Gatnarek, staff attorney at ACLU Kentucky said, “Anti-abortion extremists have already shut down all but one abortion clinic in Kentucky. Now they want to push care totally out of reach for many Kentuckians with this patently unconstitutional abortion ban. It’s shameless, insulting, and dangerous.”

Dr. Ernest Marshall, EMW Women's Surgical Center said, “After 37 years of providing abortion care, ours is now the last clinic standing in Kentucky. Women’s health care is a sacred calling to me, and should be a priority in our state—it should never be compromised to score political points.”

With the passage of the law March 14 Kentucky becomes the second state to enact a near total ban on abortion in 2019.  This is the first challenge to such a ban this year.  Mississippi has also passed a similar ban that is not scheduled to take effect until July 1, 2019.  Legislatures in several other states, including Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee, are contemplating similar bans.  

Over the last few years, the Kentucky legislature has passed or attempted to enforce other laws restricting access to abortion care, including laws that would have shut down the last remaining clinic in the state.  EMW and the ACLU have gone to court to challenge three such laws; all three have been blocked. 

The plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU, the ACLU of Kentucky, Ackerson & Yann, and O’Melveny & Myers.

On March 27th the Temporary Restraining Order blocking the enforcement of Senate Bill 9 was extended through the final ruling in district court.