Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban Blocked by Kentucky Judge

The ACLU challenged the ban on behalf of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center

Judge David J. Hale of the western judicial district of Kentucky blocked a controversial law which would forbid abortions if a fetal heartbeat could be detected. A heartbeat can generally be detected at six weeks after conception. The ruling came a mere hours after Matt Bevin, the Republican Governor of Kentucky state, signed this measure to law. This legal battle is the latest of the right’s campaign to bring in legislation to the U.S. Supreme Court which may challenge the result of the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

The Senate bill passed on March 14, and the fetal discrimination bill passed on March 13. The Kentucky branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged both the measures in its lawsuit filed during the third week of March. The ACLU filed the case on behalf of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center. The latter is the sole licensed abortion clinic in the state. According to Brigitte Amiri, the deputy director of Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU, the legal case is a straightforward one. She pointed out it is not possible for states to ban abortion. The prohibition to do so has been settled in the Roe v. Wade judgment that took place approximately 40 years back.

Governor Bevin signed judge Hale’s restraining order linked to Senate Bill 9, popularly known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill with a dire “emergency” declaration which will make the law effective immediately. The judge’s order blocks the bill for 14 days or until the day he could hold a hearing deciding its constitutionality. Judge Hale also blocked another bill which banned abortions in events where the mother was seen to discriminate against the fetus for its disability, gender, or race. Judge Hale found the bills to be unconstitutional.

The ACLU has estimated that the legislation would prohibit 90 percent of all abortions in the state of Kentucky since a majority of women do not realize they are pregnant until seven weeks have passed. The state is not the only one to propose the colloquially named “heartbeat bills.” Georgia and Tennessee have done the same. An Iowa judge thumbed down a heartbeat law in January which was previously passed by the Iowa state legislature. The judge pointed out the constitution of the state protects a woman’s right to take her personal decision as to whether to terminate a pregnancy or to keep the baby.

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