Judges in Florida and Kentucky on Thursday approved temporary restraining orders blocking laws that placed limits on abortions, the latest rulings such as abortion rights advocates challenging state-by-state bans.
The moves come after judges this week also issued temporary suspensions of abortion bans in Texas, Utah and Louisiana.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday paved the way for two different so-called trigger laws in Kentucky — one that bans abortion outright passed in 2019 and another that bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The 2019 law also makes it a Class D felony to provide abortions to patients in the state.
“A Kentucky circuit court blocked the state’s blanket abortion ban and six-week ban, granting our request for a restraining order,” the court said. The ACLU of Kentucky said in a statement Thursday.
“Abortion is legal again in the Commonwealth. Our legal team is reviewing the order to determine when our client can return to care.”
The lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which were represented by the ACLU, argued that the laws violate Kentucky’s constitutional rights to self-determination and bodily integrity privacy.
“A person who is required by the government to remain pregnant against her will – a significant physiological process affecting her health for 40 weeks and culminating in childbirth – experiences a first-rate interference with her right to own and control her own person” , said the lawsuit declared.
“The right to self-determination thus protects the power of Kentuckians to control the continuation or termination of their own pregnancy,” he continued.
Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center are the only two clinics licensed to administer abortion in Kentucky and are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry heard arguments from the state and the ACLU.
“It’s a close call, by the way,” Perry said at the end of Wednesday’s hearing.
Although the law says doctors must do everything possible to save the life of both the fetus and the mother, the lawsuit argues that pregnancies pose a range of dangers to a person outside of simple physical complications. The complaint lists several dangers associated with pregnancy, including a higher risk of domestic violence, poverty and mental health problems.
The ACLU argued that the forced pregnancy causes irreparable harm to Kentucky residents.
Christopher Thacker of the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office argued that a restraining order was unnecessary because the parties in court were businesses and not a Kentucky resident who could be harmed by the law.
“None of these parties can suffer the prejudice of … proposed constitutional rights because they can’t get pregnant,” Thacker said.
He went on to tell the judge that there is no constitutional right to practice medicine or a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
In Florida, Leon County Judge Cooper will issue a temporary restraining order on a 15-week abortion ban. Cooper on Thursday called the ban a violation of the secrecy clause of Florida’s constitution.
“It will be a temporary statewide injunction,” Cooper said of his order. “It won’t be effective until I sign an order, so it won’t be today.”
Planned Parenthood and several other medical centers filed the legal complaint to stop the law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in April and was set to go into effect Friday.
The ACLU also represented Florida clinics, saying in a press release Thursday that the bill would jail doctors for providing necessary care to their patients. Daniel Tilley, legal director for the ACLU of Florida, said Cooper’s decision “reflects the will of the people.”
“Despite the best efforts of Governor Ron DeSantis and extremist Florida politicians, we have the power to stand against these attempts to impose their cruel agenda on Floridians,” Tilley said. “We will continue to do this to ensure that no one is forced to carry a pregnancy against their will.”
Kentucky and Florida were two of several states where such limits on pregnancy termination were set to be put in place pending the Supreme Court’s majority opinion.
The ACLU filed another relief request in Ohio on Wednesday, challenging a ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is detected.