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Kentucky woman sues to challenge state’s abortion ban in historic case


Kentucky woman sues to challenge state’s abortion ban in historic case

Dec 08, 2023 | 11:27 am ET
By Sarah Ladd
Kentucky woman sues to challenge state’s abortion ban
Planned Parenthood's Louisville health clinic. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Deborah Yetter)

A Kentucky woman who is pregnant but does not want to be is suing Attorney General Daniel Cameron and others in Jefferson County Circuit Court to challenge the state’s near total abortion bans, the first lawsuit of its kind in Kentucky. 

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, said in a statement that “I am angry that now that I am pregnant and do not want to be, the government is interfering in my private matters and blocking me from having an abortion.” 

Doe, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in her class action lawsuit, is eight weeks pregnant, according to the court filing. She “seeks to terminate her pregnancy in the Commonwealth but cannot legally do so.” 

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade, which gave Americans the constitutional right to abortion, in 2022, a “trigger law” went into effect in Kentucky that banned abortions. Another law bans abortions after six weeks. Kentucky does not have exceptions for rape or incest. Lawyers for this case are asking that the state’s bans be ruled unconstitutional. 

“At this moment, Jane Doe and the other putative and future class members, are suffering medical, constitutional, and irreparable harm because they are denied the ability to obtain an abortion,” the lawsuit states. It argues that the bans violate Doe’s right to self-determination, as well as the autonomy of others like her. 

This lawsuit is “historic” for Kentucky, said Amber Duke, executive director for the ACLU of Kentucky. Nationally, though, cases like this are not new.

“Even before Roe vs. Wade was overturned…we did bring class action lawsuits on behalf of individuals, often in the context of people who were pregnant and seeking abortion when they were in government custody,” said Brigitte Amiri, a deputy director at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

During an afternoon press conference to discuss the lawsuit, ACLU’s Duke said the fallout from abortion bans in Kentucky “have been devastating, leaving thousands of Kentuckians to manage life altering consequences and serious health risks over the past year..”

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Kentucky and other states, said abortion bans “have nothing to do with health and well being and everything to do with power and control.”

Both Duke and Gibron pointed to a special election in 2022 in which Kentucky voters defeated the anti-abortion Amendment 2, which would have specified there’s no right to an abortion in Kentucky’s Constitution.

Because of that vote, Duke said: “We know that Kentuckians support access to legal, safe abortion care without government interference.”

In a statement, Doe said she hopes “this case will restore abortion access in Kentucky, if not for me then for the countless people in the future who deserve the autonomy to decide what is best for themselves and their families.”