State-Level Abortion Battles Continue Across the U.S.
Pro-life measures in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana gain political traction, but face obstacles in the courts
LEXINGTON, Ky. — A judge blocked a Kentucky law that would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, in the latest setback in efforts to expand abortion restrictions in the United States.
Federal Judge David J. Hale of the Western District of Kentucky ruled on March 16 that Kentucky’s newly-signed law to ban abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy may be unconstitutional, and delayed its enforcement for the next two weeks.
The bill was signed into law earlier that day by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, and was supposed to go into effect upon signing. The ACLU and other groups had pledged to immediately challenge the law.
Other states’ attempts to pass “heartbeat bills” that ban abortion following the detection of a fetal heartbeat have run into similar judicial hurdles. Due to the existing legal precedent of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which found that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion, legislation that restricts abortion prior to fetal viability is generally found to be unconstitutional.
This has led some prominent pro-life groups, as well as Tennessee’s Catholic bishops, to say that they do not support the “heartbeat bills” at the present time, due to their inevitable legal challenge and likely failure.
Kentucky currently has one abortion clinic operating in the entire state.
Meanwhile, the Indiana House voted to allow expand religious and other conscience-based objections to abortions by medical personnel.
Current law allows physicians and staff members at health clinics and hospitals to object to abortion procedures. The proposed legislation, which passed the state house by a vote of 69-25 on March 14, would expand the ability to opt-out to pharmacists, nurses and physician assistants, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.
It would also broaden the definition of abortion to include prescribing or dispensing an abortion pill.
The Indiana Senate will now need to consider the legislation, with changes made by the House, before sending it to Governor Eric Holcomb (R), who is expected to support it.