New restrictions on abortion in Kentucky face immediate challenge

Several weeks after Mississippi's governor signed into law a bill prohibiting women in his state from getting abortio...

Posted: Apr 12, 2018 8:41 PM
Updated: Apr 12, 2018 8:41 PM

Several weeks after Mississippi's governor signed into law a bill prohibiting women in his state from getting abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Kentucky's governor has put his name on a different highly restrictive abortion law.

Gov. Matt Bevin signed off Tuesday on House Bill 454, which bans a common procedure called dilation and evacuation starting at 11 weeks after fertilization, the only exception being for medical emergencies.

Dilation and evacuation accounts for 95% of abortions after the first trimester

Kentucky's governor signed a bill to ban the procedure 11 weeks post-fertilization

That Bevin approved the bill is no surprise; he's been outspoken in his anti-abortion stance. Under his governance, Kentucky banned abortions after 20 weeks and tried to institute an ultrasound bill requiring women to look at images of their unborn fetuses and listen to their heartbeats before getting an abortion. The ultrasound bill was overturned by a federal judge and, as Bevin promised, that decision is being appealed. The state is also now down to one abortion clinic, and the fate of that Louisville clinic has been in the hands of a federal judge since fall.

After the latest abortion bill cleared the state's House and Senate in March, CNN affiliate WDRB in Louisville shared a statement from the governor: "HB 454 signifies Kentucky's unwavering commitment to protecting the rights of unborn children. In a society that increasingly devalues human life, we must continue to unapologetically advance laws that will protect those who cannot protect themselves. With every pro-life bill that becomes law, we send the same message: Kentucky stands for life."

Most abortions happen in the first trimester, but of the 11% that happen afterward, dilation and evacuation (or D&E, as it's often called) "accounts for roughly 95% of these procedures," according to a 2017 policy review by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank.

D&E is a surgical procedure in which a woman's cervix is dilated before suction is used to remove the fetus. It is a method that is "evidence-based and medically preferred," according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

"Efforts to ban specific types of procedures limit the ability of physicians to provide women with the medically appropriate care they need, and will likely result in worsened outcomes and increased complications," the organization said in a 2015 statement, after a string of lawmakers introduced D&E bans. "Quite simply, these restrictions represent legislative interference at its worst: doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients. That is unacceptable."

Marcie Crim, executive director of the Kentucky Health Justice Network, says anti-abortion lawmakers have been "emboldened by the super majority in our state capitol," by the election of President Donald Trump and by the actions of other states -- including Mississippi, which recently passed a law instituting the earliest abortion ban in the country. (That law was immediately challenged and is currently subject to a restraining order.)

Crim, who addressed the state's Senate Judiciary Committee before the bill's passage, says she's tried repeatedly to appeal to the empathy of lawmakers. She's spoken of the 16-year-old she met who threatened to induce her own abortion and of women who've googled how to force miscarriages.

Researchers with the Guttmacher Institute helped illustrate the extent of such online searches when they discovered that there were more than 200,000 Google searches for self-abortion information in the United States in the span of one month in 2017.

Most recently, when Crim stood before the senate committee, she focused on the burden on Kentuckians, who she says will foot the bill for costly legal battles that will surely ensue. Instead of seeing their tax dollars used to improve schools, health care or infrastructure, the cash-strapped state is using that money -- as well as time that could be spent elsewhere -- in a fight to institute legislation that is not just unconstitutional, she says, but will probably be overturned in court.

Since 1973, with the passage of Roe v. Wade, abortion has been a legal right in the United States. If the goal is to decrease abortions, Crim says, the safest way to do that is increase full access to birth control, which can be a challenge for women in Kentucky.

"A state cannot pass laws that limit federal rights," as outlined in the 14th Amendment, Crim says. "A state can't say in 'our state you have less rights than the rest of the country.' "

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Addia Wuchner, insisted that it isn't an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, WDRB reported.

"This law, here in the commonwealth, is about the humane treatment of an unborn child," Wuchner said during debate on the House floor.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday, arguing that the state law "imposes serious harm on women's health and dignity and will continue to do so every day it remains in effect," according to a statement by the organization.

Calling the bill "further evidence of the coordinated effort by the Kentucky General Assembly to severely limit access to safe, legal abortions," ACLU-KY Advocacy Director Kate Miller took lawmakers to task in a recent statement.

"Despite the claims of certain legislators, this bill is not about dignity," she said. "It is about cutting off access to the most common method of second-trimester abortion. Legislators ignored the testimony of doctors that said this ban would put patient safety at risk."

Six other states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas -- have tried to pass similar D&E bans, only to have them blocked by courts once they were challenged.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 66646

Reported Deaths: 1874
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5544117
DeSoto357430
Harrison240635
Madison239664
Rankin225132
Jackson222542
Jones185058
Forrest175855
Washington160640
Lauderdale139790
Lee138333
Neshoba128492
Lamar119214
Oktibbeha109638
Bolivar109333
Lowndes105837
Warren103332
Panola102612
Scott99520
Sunflower99224
Lafayette95615
Copiah94528
Leflore90762
Pike89635
Holmes87348
Grenada83821
Yazoo81512
Pontotoc8098
Lincoln79641
Leake78625
Simpson78630
Monroe76952
Wayne75321
Coahoma71511
Tate70527
Marshall6749
Marion64320
Winston61116
Adams61025
Covington61013
Union60116
George5494
Newton53711
Pearl River52937
Tallahatchie52210
Attala51525
Walthall49119
Chickasaw45019
Noxubee44811
Calhoun4079
Prentiss40310
Claiborne39813
Alcorn3975
Smith39713
Clay39214
Jasper3819
Hancock37314
Tishomingo3635
Itawamba34810
Tippah34213
Clarke32525
Tunica3226
Montgomery3153
Lawrence3127
Yalobusha31210
Humphreys28311
Carroll26011
Quitman2521
Greene23611
Jefferson Davis2286
Kemper22714
Amite2256
Webster22512
Perry2237
Wilkinson20113
Jefferson1946
Sharkey1944
Stone1864
Benton1420
Choctaw1314
Franklin1192
Issaquena251
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12743242
Mobile9565206
Montgomery6521148
Madison525030
Tuscaloosa410371
Unassigned347461
Baldwin344323
Shelby320133
Marshall309034
Lee262844
Morgan233017
Etowah207530
DeKalb177113
Calhoun170413
Elmore169438
Walker150264
Houston136412
Russell13422
Dallas131123
St. Clair131016
Limestone128413
Franklin125820
Cullman120112
Colbert115613
Lauderdale113917
Autauga106521
Escambia105416
Talladega98613
Jackson9454
Tallapoosa84979
Chambers83538
Dale82323
Blount7743
Chilton7676
Butler75935
Coffee7475
Covington72620
Pike6907
Barbour5695
Lowndes56724
Marion56724
Marengo54614
Clarke4969
Hale46726
Bullock45411
Winston44411
Perry4364
Wilcox41810
Bibb4164
Monroe4154
Randolph39410
Pickens3849
Conecuh38210
Sumter36218
Lawrence3441
Macon33213
Washington32712
Crenshaw3133
Choctaw27912
Cherokee2637
Geneva2550
Henry2523
Greene25011
Clay2495
Lamar2172
Fayette1985
Cleburne1251
Coosa1012
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