LOUISVILLE (KT) – A federal judge issued a temporary order to halt Kentucky’s new abortion law, paving the way for the state’s two providers to resume offering abortions after a week of inaction.
In a Thursday ruling, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings granted the request from the two abortion providers, both located in Louisville, for a temporary restraining order.
“The Court restrains enforcement of the entirety of HB 3 at this time, as it lacks information to specifically determine which individual provisions and subsections are capable of compliance,” Jennings wrote in a 21-page ruling. Planned Parenthood’s “motion for a temporary restraining order is granted.”
It has been eight days since Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center sought emergency relief in federal court from House Bill 3, a sweeping abortion law they said had so many restrictions it would be impossible to comply.
The law took effect April 13 when the General Assembly overrode a veto by Gov. Andy Beshear, who said in his veto message that the law was “likely unconstitutional.” He also opposed it because there was no exemption for rape or incest.
The omnibus abortion law, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Tate, introduced new regulations for medical abortion pills and the disposal of fetal remains, updated the judicial bypass procedure and changed abortion reporting requirements. It also banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Current Kentucky law bans abortion after 20 weeks.
HB 3 puts new restrictions on abortions for girls under 18, including those seeking permission from a judge in certain circumstances and requires fetal remains to be disposed of through cremation or burial.
Abortion advocates said the passage of HB 3 imposed an unconstitutional, undue burden on women seeking abortions. In a response filed in Western District Court on Tuesday, Attorney General Daniel Cameron disagreed.
“Planned Parenthood’s alleged concerns that prompted this lawsuit are based on a flawed interpretation of the requirements of the law,” wrote Cameron, who is listed as a defendant in his official capacity to defend Kentucky law.
Cameron argued the burden for developing forms required by HB 3 is imposed on the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, not abortion providers—allowing them to continue operating until the forms are provided.
Jennings’ order did not go into the larger issue of the new law’s constitutionality. Instead, it focused on the clinics’ claims that they’re unable to comply with the measure because the state hasn’t yet set up clear guidelines.
The judge said she decided to block the entire law because she lacked information “to specifically determine which individual provisions and subsections are capable of compliance.”
The temporary restraining order of HB 3 went into effect at 3 p.m. on Thursday and, absent a request for extension or other legal stipulations, will remain in effect for 14 days.