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Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on KY Abortion Law

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021   

FRANKFORT, Ky. - U.S. Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case involving a 2018 Kentucky abortion law that bans a medical abortion method used after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Kentucky law later was struck down as unconstitutional.

Attorney Heather Gatnarek with the ACLU of Kentucky said the issue before the court involves the role of the state's Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron.

"The issue before the Supreme Court," she said, "is very specifically about that procedural question: Should the attorney general have been allowed to intervene at such a late stage, after the courts had already struck down the law twice? Or did the Sixth Circuit get it right and he shouldn't have been allowed to intervene?"

The legislation made it a crime for doctors to use a second-trimester procedure known as "dilation and evacuation." The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals permanently blocked the law from going into effect last summer. Abortion-rights advocates nationwide are closely watching the outcome of the Kentucky case, after national protests over the Supreme Court's recent decision to allow a six-week abortion ban to go into effect in Texas.

Gatnarek noted that if Kentucky's 2018 law were to go into effect, it effectively would prevent many patients from ending a pregnancy. She emphasized that a pregnant person in her third trimester still can access reproductive health care in the Commonwealth.

"That procedure is still available in Kentucky," she said. "The ban has not gone into effect, so the abortion providers are able to provide that second-trimester care."

Gatnarek added that the Kentucky law is one of many ways politicians and anti-choice groups have tried to curtail abortion access. She said this year alone, state lawmakers nationwide have attempted to pass more than 100 new restrictions.

"We're seeing these laws over and over, copycat laws that pop up in states around the country," she said. "Groups like ours then have to sue to prevent them from going into effect."

The Supreme Court also is scheduled to hear arguments in December about a Mississippi law that bans abortions entirely after 15 weeks. Experts have said that case potentially could challenge the constitutionality of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Disclosure: ACLU of Kentucky contributes to our fund for reporting on Criminal Justice, Immigrant Issues, Reproductive Health, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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