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A federal judge temporarily blocks Kentucky's new abortion law

Abortion-rights supporters chant their objections at the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort on April 13, as state lawmakers debate overriding the governor's veto of an abortion measure.
Bruce Schreiner
/
AP
Abortion-rights supporters chant their objections at the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort on April 13, as state lawmakers debate overriding the governor's veto of an abortion measure.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a state law that effectively eliminated abortions in Kentucky after the state's two remaining clinics said they couldn't meet its requirements.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings was a victory for abortion rights advocates and a setback for the Republican-led legislature, which passed the law in March and then overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's veto of the measure last week. One of the clinics said Thursday that it would immediately resume abortion services.

The new law bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and requires women to be examined by a doctor before receiving abortion pills. It also contains new reporting requirements that the Kentucky clinics said they couldn't immediately comply with. Noncompliance can result in stiff fines and felony penalties.

Jennings' order did not delve into the larger issue of the new law's constitutionality. Instead, it focused on the clinics' claims that they're unable to comply with the measure because the state hasn't yet set up clear guidelines.

Jennings, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, said she decided to block the entire law because she lacked information "to specifically determine which individual provisions and subsections are capable of compliance."

Abortion rights activists said they were relieved by the decision but noted more rounds are ahead in the legal fight.

"This is a win, but it is only the first step," said Rebecca Gibron, the CEO for Planned Parenthood in Kentucky, where its clinic is immediately resuming abortion services. "We're prepared to fight for our patients' right to basic health in court and to continue doing everything in our power in ensure abortion access is permanently secured in Kentucky."

Supporters say the goal of Kentucky's new law is to protect women's health and strengthen oversight. Opponents say the objective all along was to stop abortions in the state completely.

Kentucky is among the GOP-led states that have passed restrictive abortion laws in anticipation of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could reverse the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that established a right to abortion nationwide nearly 50 years ago.

Pending before the high court is a challenge to a law passed in a fifth state, Mississippi, that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The court has indicated that it will allow Mississippi's ban to stand and conservative justices have suggested they support overruling Roe.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press