Kentucky abortion clinics in limbo after new law passed


FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Frustration is mounting among abortion rights groups in Kentucky, where a restrictive new law has thrown the state’s only two remaining clinics into limbo.

The clinics, both located in the state’s largest city, Louisville, say they were forced to stop abortions because officials didn’t have time to write guidelines to comply with the law, which the Republican-dominated legislature passed a week ago over the Democratic Party’s veto. Governor Andy Beshear.

Supporters say the situation foreshadows what could happen in Republican-leaning states across the country if the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established nationwide abortion rights.

Effective immediately, the new law bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, replacing the state’s previous 20-week limit — a restriction that four other states have also adopted.

It also imposes strict new conditions on medical abortions, requiring women to be examined by a doctor before receiving abortion pills. And it contains new reporting requirements for suppliers. Failure to comply can result in heavy fines and criminal penalties.

The clinics’ attorneys have filed federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the law. In the meantime, Kentucky women are forced to travel out of state to terminate their pregnancies or await a judge’s decision on whether to temporarily block the law while the case is being argued. . Many of the women affected are young and poor, advocates say.

“The mood is one of anger and frustration,” said Meg Sasse Stern, abortion fund director for the Kentucky Health Justice Network, a statewide reproductive justice group. “These people know what they need. They knew as soon as they made their decision. And they know they should be able to get that care. It’s safe, it’s common and it should be accessible.

Proponents of Kentucky’s new law say the goal is to protect women’s health and strengthen oversight.

But in his veto, the governor faulted the measure for not making exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest and for the lack of funding to carry out new reporting requirements. He also raised doubts about its constitutionality.

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Louisville has halted abortions pending a judge’s ruling, but continues to provide other services, including health screenings, birth control and first appointments for pregnant women . But officials fear the law will discourage women who need help from reaching out.

“The challenge is, you don’t know who you’re not seeing, if women are trying to work things out on their own,” said Dr. Kara Cadwallader, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood in Kentucky and several other states.

“The overall picture is kind of a mass confusion if you’re a patient trying to get care, especially if you have economic barriers that make accessing any type of care that much harder,” he said. -she adds.

Another group at the forefront of the legal fight, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, has vowed to “never stop fighting” for women’s right to make their own reproductive decisions. “The government should never have the power to force someone to stay pregnant against their will,” the group said on Twitter earlier this week.

Republican Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said he would vigorously defend the law.

“The General Assembly passed HB 3 to protect the lives and promote the health and safety of women, and we stand ready to strongly defend this new law,” Cameron said last week.

The measure requires abortion providers to report more detailed patient information, which opponents say would violate privacy. And that requires fetal remains to be cremated or buried by a licensed funeral facility, which drives up costs.

For women who have made the decision to terminate their pregnancies, Kentucky’s sudden lack of access to abortion has become another hardship, according to proponents of abortion rights.

For many women in Kentucky, the drive to the nearest clinic is already a long one. They face travel and accommodation costs, and many have to arrange for childcare.

The Kentucky Health Justice Network offers financial and logistical assistance to women wishing to have an abortion. Some women who seek the group’s help have opted to wait for a judge to rule, Sasse Stern said. Others have made appointments with clinics in other states.

“For some people, it’s okay to wait, especially if they’re early in their pregnancy,” she said. “They may be able to delay an appointment for a few weeks.

“If someone is later in the pregnancy or is experiencing health issues from this pregnancy, it can become very urgent for them to receive care,” she added.

Abortion rights supporters in Kentucky fear last week could be a harbinger of things to come if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Judges are being asked to overturn the 50-year-old ruling amid a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks.

“I think it’s a chilling glimpse of what’s to come,” Cadwallader said of Kentucky’s current situation.

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