Kentucky Supreme Court Allows Near-Total Abortion Ban to Continue
Kentucky’s law banning abortion almost entirely will be allowed to continue after the state’s supreme court refused to stop it.
Thursday’s decision, which saw the Bluegrass State’s high court consider a near-total ban on abortion as well as a separate six-week ban, will send the cases back to lower courts for consideration.
The laws were passed by the state’s legislature in 2019 and took effect after infamous abortion case Roe v. Wade was overturned in the summer. However, the court also considered laws in the wake of a Kentucky ballot measure seen on Election Day 2022 which had voters reject a ban on constitutional protections for abortion.
Both laws make abortions illegal, with zero exception for cases of rape or incest. There is only a narrow path to abortion for life-endangering complications for the mother.
“To be clear, this opinion does not in any way determine whether the Kentucky Constitution protects or does not protect the right to receive an abortion, as no appropriate party to raise that issue is before us,” Deputy Chief Justice Debra Hembree Lambert wrote. “Nothing in this opinion shall be construed to prevent an appropriate party from filing suit at a later date.”
Lambert explained that Louisville Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry was wrong when he decided to enjoin the laws in July, and that the appeals court was correct in reinstating the bans in August.
The court ruled on narrow legal grounds, not on the merits of the laws, but Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) called the ruling a “significant victory.”
Vowing to “stand for the unborn,” Cameron said in a statement that “very pleased that Kentucky’s high court has allowed these laws to remain in effect while the case proceeds in circuit court.”
While the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing on behalf of Kentucky abortionists, says the restrictions cause “irreparable harm” because they cause “pain and trauma” to women who must now allow their baby to live, Lambert said that abortionists do not have standing to sue on behalf of their patients. She did say that abortionists could challenge the laws on constitutional grounds.
With the “third-party standing” out of the question, leaving only the abortionists’ avenue through “first-party standing,” the ruling noted that abortionists gave “no arguments concerning their own rights” to sue.
The pro-abortion side argues that an 1891 provision in Kentucky’s constitution — the “right of seeking and pursuing their safety and happiness” away from “absolute and arbitrary power” — provides the right to an abortion to Kentuckians.
The case is Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C., No. 2022-SC-0329-TG, in the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.