Most Abortions Illegal in Kentucky After State's Supreme Court Rejects Request for Relief

Most Abortions Illegal in Kentucky After State's Supreme Court Rejects Request for Relief
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks during a press conference in Frankfort, Ky., on Sept. 23, 2020. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Aug. 18 rejected a request by abortion providers to block state laws that ban most abortions.

Planned Parenthood, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, and Dr. Ernest Marshall asked the court to enter an emergency motion dissolving an appeals court ruling, which recently lifted an injunction against the bans that had been entered by a lower court.
But judicial rules require "extraordinary cause" to be demonstrated by parties moving for emergency relief, and "the circumstances presented by the Movants in their motion do not rise to the level of extraordinary cause," the state's top court said in a majority ruling.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, is on the other side in the case.

Justice Michelle Keller, concurring, said that both sides presented compelling arguments but that the court should only decide which side is correct after receiving more information in briefs and oral arguments.

"In order to accelerate this review, we reluctantly concur with the result reached by the plurality of this Court," she said, joined by Justice Christopher Nickell.

Chief Justice John Minton Jr., joined by Justice Lisabeth Hughes, said civil rules don't define "extraordinary cause" but believe the parties demonstrated through claims of an abuse of discretion by the appeals court, and because the matters at hand affect people across the state.

"Failure to find extraordinary cause justifying interlocutory review under the circumstances presented here would constitute this Court dodging its responsibility to settle legal issues of great legal importance facing the Commonwealth," Minton said, adding that the appeals court did abuse its discretion by not showing "any deference" to findings by a circuit court, which had blocked the bans.

The new ruling means most abortions will remain illegal in Kentucky under the Heartbeat Law and the Human Life Protection Act. But the court may ultimately rule against the bans after arguments are made.


Cameron backed the rejection.

"Today, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that abortion clinics in Kentucky should remain closed until our case is decided," he said in a statement.

"This is a win for life. We will never waver in our defense of the unborn," he added.

Abortion providers decried the ruling.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to allow Kentucky’s abortion bans to remain in effect puts nearly a million people’s health care in jeopardy," Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.

"Abortion is not only health care but also a critical individual freedom. Make no mistake: abortion bans result in tragic health outcomes and are a form of control over our bodies. Despite this setback, the fight continues. We will proceed with our case to restore and protect reproductive freedom in Kentucky. Politicians and the government should never have the authority to force a person to remain pregnant against their will.”

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