Kentucky Is the First State to End Virtually All In-State Abortions

This story was originally published in The 19th*

Kentucky is the first state where clinics will completely stop providing abortions. The state legislature enacted a far-reaching abortion law Wednesday with so many restrictions, including a 15-week ban, that clinics said they have been forced to stop performing the procedure. The law, known as House Bill 3, takes effect immediately.

The state’s two abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, will be filing lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. But unless the law is blocked, neither health center will provide abortions, clinic lawyers said. It is not clear if or when the court will respond to the legal challenge. 

“There’s nothing in place for providers to be able to comply [with HB 3’s regulations],” said Nicole Erwin, a Kentucky-based spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “That’s why we would stop providing care. Literally we can’t meet the  demands this bill would require.”

It is not clear how the state’s hospitals — which provide a tiny fraction of Kentucky’s abortions — will be affected by the new law.

Beyond the 15-week ban on abortion, under HB 3, the law institutes new regulations for patients who have abortions, including requirements that many patients with abortions file “birth-death certificates.” Physicians who perform abortions also have to report each procedure to the state, along with the method of abortion and substantial biographical detail about both the person who received the abortion and their sexual partner, including their age, race, ethnicity, hometown and health information.

HB 3 also enhances the state’s power to audit abortion providers, create a state website that publishes the names of all physicians who provide abortions in Kentucky, bans telemedicine for medication abortion, further restricts the circumstances under which minors can get abortions. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Providers say that the state systems are not in place to be able to comply with these measures, which will prevent them from offering abortion services.

A portion of the omnibus bill requiring remains from abortions to be processed through funeral homes was removed at the last minute. But the paperwork that clinicians and patients have to fill out to work with the funeral homes does not yet exist, and the forms are expected to require patient biographical information that could ultimately identify who received the abortion, breaching patient privacy and potentially resulting in harassment against those who end a pregnancy. Clinics say that the funeral home regulation in particular would make it impossible to continue providing abortions. 

HB 3 was vetoed last week by Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat. But the legislature, which has a  Republican supermajority, overrode the veto 31-6 during its reconvened session Wednesday evening. To override a veto, the bill must once again receive favorable votes from a majority in both legislative chambers. The House voted 68-21 to override the governor’s veto. 

The clinics’ attorneys are arguing that the new law violates protections established in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established the right to an abortion. But that precedent could be overturned this summer in a highly anticipated ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

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