Esperanza Rodriguez, left, shouts during a rally in support of abortion rights, in Miami. Lynne Sladky/AP/Shutterstock
- A judge has temporarily blocked a Kentucky law that restricted abortion.
- The new law had essentially ended abortion access in Kentucky.
- Florida has also imposed a ban on abortions after 15 weeks.
- The Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade this summer.
A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the 15-week abortion ban that went into effect last week.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, granted Planned Parenthood’s request to block the law, which had essentially eliminated all abortion services in the state.
House Bill 3 quickly went into effect and included regulations that were impossible for clinics to comply within a timely manner.
“Because Plaintiff cannot comply with HB 3 and thus cannot legally perform abortion services, its patients face a substantial obstacle to exercising their rights to a pre-viability abortion,” Jennings wrote in court documents.
The decision comes one week after Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed lawsuits challenging the law.
Meanwhile, in Florida, a law prohibiting most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy is expected to take effect on July 1 unless that is blocked by a court order.
Reproductive rights advocates say both of these laws are unconstitutional under Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that has protected people’s right to have an abortion before fetal viability, which occurs around 24 weeks.
But the future of Roe, and the ways in which it protects people’s right to abortion, is uncertain.
The Supreme Court is considering overturning Roe in its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization.
That decision is expected this summer.
“If Roe and Casey are completely overturned — and the issue of reproductive choice becomes entirely determined by state legislative or constitutional authority — then most of the federal constitutional questions will be moot,” says Alison Gash, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Oregon.
Kentucky’s abortion ban
Kentucky’s law, House Bill 3, banned abortions after 15 weeks. But due to onerous requirements, it also shut down the last two remaining abortion clinics in the state, making Kentucky the only state in the country that did not provide abortions.
After today’s court judgment, the two remaining abortion clinics said they will again be able to provide the procedure.
The law prohibits medication abortion pills from being sent by mail and includes a requirement that fetuses must be cremated or buried.
“This can be expensive, and often clinics cannot quickly adapt to changing rules. These laws are designed to make the survival of abortion clinics impossible, basically drowning them in paper and rules,” Aziza Ahmed, JD, a professor of law who specializes in reproductive rights at the University of California, Irvine, told Healthline.
If the law goes into effect again, teens ages 18 and under will face additional hurdles in accessing an abortion.
People under the age of 18, who are seeking an abortion, must receive permission from a judge if a parent cannot approve the procedure when sexual abuse, domestic violence, or neglect is involved.
H.B. 3 makes no exceptions for rape or incest.
“The lack of exception is a sign of how cruel anti-choice policymaking has become,” says Ahmed.
Planned Parenthood said they would continue to offer health screenings, birth control, and other reproductive health services to patients in the state. The organization will also help patients access care in nearby states that provide abortions.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are filing two individual lawsuits that challenge H.B. 3
Florida’s abortion ban
The 15-week ban signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last week will replace a law that previously allowed abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The ban makes no exceptions for rape, incest, or human trafficking.
It permits abortions that would save the pregnant person’s life and includes exceptions for pregnancies in which the fetus has life-threatening abnormalities.
The ban is expected to disproportionally impact Black and Latina women in Florida, who often face barriers accessing healthcare and experience higher maternal morbidity rates, Planned Parenthood said in a statement.
The law goes into effect July 1.
Will these unconstitutional laws stand?
Ahmed says these unconstitutional laws are designed to block a person’s access to a pre-viability abortion.
The future of these laws depends on Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, which is before the Supreme Court right now.
If the Supreme Court decides to uphold Roe and keep the precedent in place, the KY and FL laws will likely fall.
“If the Supreme Court keeps the precedent in place, allowing states to regulate abortions so long as the regulations do not impose an ‘undue burden’ on a woman’s capacity to choose — the regulatory framework in any state that decides to further limit abortions will be measured against that standard,” Gash said.
Given the Court’s conservative majority, there is a significant chance Roe could be undone, in which case determining people’s right to an abortion would be up to each state.
Conservative legislatures are already finding ways to prohibit abortion.
In Texas, for example, private citizens can sue abortion providers if they perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected (which occurs around six weeks), Gash says.
Even if Roe — or part of Roe’s protections —stands, there are still ways for legislatures to find loopholes and restrict access to abortion.
“We will have a lot more clarity around which type of abortion laws states will impose after Dobbs has been decided,” Gash said.
The bottom line:
Kentucky and Florida legislators have signed new laws that ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Kentucky’s law was temporarily blocked today by a federal judge.
Both laws are considered unconstitutional under Roe v Wade, a ruling that protects people’s right to abortions before fetal viability. The future of these laws depends on Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, a case that is before the Supreme Court right now and will determine whether Roe stands or falls.