LOUISVILLE, Ky. The American Civil Liberties
Union sued Kentucky state officials on Monday to block a new law
that requires women seeking an abortion to first undergo an
ultrasound and hear a description of the embryo or fetus.
ACLU lawyers filed the lawsuit in federal court in
Louisville on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which the
lawsuit said is the sole licensed abortion facility in Kentucky.
The requirement violates the speech rights of doctors and
patients by forcing them to deliver and listen to a
government-mandated message, the lawsuit argues. The surgical
center is asking for a temporary restraining order and a
permanent declaration that the law is unconstitutional.
The law is part of a renewed effort by abortion opponents
nationwide to restrict the procedure. It was passed on Saturday
by the Kentucky General Assembly, where Republicans swept to
power after taking the state House for the first time in nearly
a century, and signed on Monday by Governor Matt Bevin, also a
Bevin, in a statement on Monday, defended the law and
several other recently passed measures as representing a new day
for Kentucky. He said the measures would “protect our most
The law requires a physician or qualified technician to
perform the ultrasound and position the screen so the woman may
view the images. The medical staff will also be required to
describe what the images show, including the size of the fetus
and any organs or appendages visible.
It does not contain exceptions for women who are facing
medical complications or are victims of rape or incest.
Lawmakers inserted an emergency clause allowing it to take
effect immediately upon Bevin’s signature.
The lawsuit accuses lawmakers of “forcibly co-opting and
perverting the informed consent process.”
While the bill received overwhelming support in both
chambers of Kentucky’s legislature, even some of its supporters
questioned whether the state risked a lawsuit.
Some 25 states have laws regarding ultrasounds and
abortions, but only three states require medical staff to
display and describe the images, according to the Kaiser Family
Foundation, a non-profit group focusing on health issues.
Republicans have acted swiftly in their first week with
majorities in the Kentucky legislature. Other measures they
passed include prohibiting abortions after a pregnancy has
reached 20 weeks, making Kentucky the 27th “right-to-work” state
and allowing the governor to overhaul the University of
Louisville’s board of trustees.
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