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United States Court of Appeals denies petition to reconsider abortion ruling on ultrasounds

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday denied a petition for a re-hearing of pro-life legislation passed by the 2017 General Assembly.

In April, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the measure requiring an abortion provider to provide mothers with an ultrasound and a description of what it depicts, as well as the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat, before she chooses to terminate her pregnancy.

EMW Women’s Clinic of Louisville, Kentucky’s only abortion clinic, objected to the ultrasound requirement, claiming the bill violates their First Amendment rights by compelling them to speak against their will.

Sixth U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati refused to have another hearing on an abortion ruling Friday. (Kentucky Today file photo)

The three-judge panel rejected that argument, holding that the bill is a constitutional exercise of the Commonwealth’s sovereign power to regulate the practice of medicine. They determined it is a valid informed-consent law, because it merely requires the disclosure of truthful, non-misleading, and relevant information about an abortion.

EMW then sought the have the case re-heard before the entire Court of Appeals but, according to the order, less than a majority of the judges voted to re-hear the matter.

The one-page order stated two of the judges recused from participating in the ruling, while another said she wanted to grant it, so the previous three-judge panel ruling stands.

In a statement on his YouTube channel, Gov. Matt Bevin said, “We’re a pro-life state, we’re a pro-life administration and I’m a pro-life governor, and we won.

“This ultrasound bill will stand. The people of Kentucky will have their voice heard and life will be preserved.”

In a press release, the Governor’s office notes this is one of six pro-life bills enacted since he took office. The others include:

• SB 4 (2016) – requiring informed consent (in-person or via real-time video),

• SB 5 (2017) – banning abortions after 20 weeks of gestation,

• HB 454 (2018) – banning the practice of live dismemberment abortion,

• SB 9 (2019) – banning abortions after a baby’s heartbeat has been detected, and

• HB 5 (2019) – banning abortions based on race, gender, and perceived disability.

The Bevin administration is also involved in defending the last three bills on the list in federal court, following legal challenges.

EMW Women’s Clinic was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky but hasn’t said if it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

ACLU senior staff attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas told the Associated Press it was a disappointing decision on a law that “intrudes on Kentuckians’ personal health care decisions.”

The ACLU’s only recourse would be appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. An ACLU spokeswoman says it’s evaluating options.

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