April 11, 2018 / 5:26 PM / 3 months ago

ACLU sues to block new Kentucky law restricting abortions

LOUISVILLE (Reuters) - A day after the governor signed the bill, a civil rights group on Wednesday sued to block a Kentucky law that restricts abortion access in the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf the state’s lone abortion provider, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Louisville seeking to stop enforcement of House Bill 454, which bans a common abortion procedure from the 11th week of pregnancy onward.

The law, which bans the procedure known as dilation and evacuation for women in their second trimester except in cases of emergency, took effect late Tuesday after Republican Governor Matt Bevin signed the bill. The procedure accounts for 16 percent of all abortions performed in Kentucky.

“Kentucky politicians have already shut down all but one abortion clinic in our state,” Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said in a statement. “Now they want to invade the exam room and stop doctors from providing safe, quality care. It’s shameless, insulting and dangerous.”

Bevin’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn said the lawsuit was not surprising, but disturbing nonetheless.

“Kentucky’s elected representatives voted overwhelmingly this session to safeguard unborn children,” she said in an emailed statement.

Last year, a similar measure passed by Texas lawmakers was struck down by a federal judge. Similar bans in other states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma, have also been struck down by the courts.

Mississippi’s governor last month signed into law the most restrictive abortion measure in the United States, banning all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. That state’s only abortion clinic has also sued to block that law.

Since last year, when Republicans took control of the Kentucky House for the first time since 1921, the state’s legislature has passed several measures to restrict access to abortion, including banning all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

The ACLU in 2017 sued to keep the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville open, and a federal judge struck down a law passed in January 2017 that required women to undergo an ultrasound exam before receiving an abortion.

After Kentucky’s General Assembly passed the bill late last month, state Representative Addia Wuchner, its main sponsor, said she was not seeking to prevent a woman’s access to an abortion, but to restrict a “brutal and cruel” procedure.

While dilation and evacuation is used in most second-trimester abortions, nearly 90 percent of all abortions are performed in the first trimester, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Reporting by Steve Bittenbender, editing by G Crosse and Jonathan Oatis

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