April 13, 2018 / 7:50 PM / a year ago

Enforcement of Kentucky abortion law suspended pending ruling

(Reuters) - Kentucky state officials have agreed to hold off enforcing a new law that bans a common abortion procedure from the 11th week of pregnancy until a federal judge rules on a request by a civil liberties group challenging it, according to court papers.

Escorts who ensure women can reach the clinic lineup as they face off protesters outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. on January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Kenning

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued this week in U.S. District Court in Louisville on behalf of Kentucky’s sole abortion provider to halt enforcement of the law restricting abortion access.

State officials, including Attorney General Andrew Beshear, agreed not to enforce the new until a judge rules on the ACLU’s request for a temporary order stopping enforcement, according to a consent order filed late on Thursday.

A hearing is set for June 5 before U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley Jr.

ACLU lawyer Andrew Beck said that the order brought relief to women who have had appointments canceled and care delayed under the law.

“In the meantime, we’ll continue to fight this law and look forward to seeing the state in court,” he said in a statement.

Kentucky General Counsel Steve Pitt said the order would speed a final decision. “The sooner this case is decided, the sooner the Commonwealth can stop this horrific and barbaric practice of ripping unborn babies limb by limb,” Pitt said in a statement.

The Kentucky law bans the procedure known as dilation and evacuation for women in their second trimester except in cases of emergency. The procedure uses a combination of suction and forceps to bring tissue through the cervix and accounts for 16 percent of all abortions performed in Kentucky.

The law took effect on Tuesday after Bevin signed the measure.

Last year, a similar Texas measure 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.

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic has sued to block that law, and a federal court this week extended a restraining order until 30 days after conclusion of a Sept. 24 hearing.

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

Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio

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