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Judge blocks Kentucky abortion ban while lawsuit proceeds

Women attend a candlelight vigil in Washington on June 26, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, ending federal abortion protections. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

July 22 (UPI) -- A Kentucky judge ruled Friday to block enforcement of the the state's trigger law banning abortions while a lawsuit against the ban is being heard in court.

Kentucky Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry's ruling extends a temporary order he issued June 30 and makes abortions available in the state while the legal challenge continues.

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The American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two abortion clinics -- Planned Parenthood and EWM Women's Surgical Center -- sought an injunction against the 2019 Kentucky trigger law that was designed to go into effect when the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe vs. Wade.

"The Plaintiffs have demonstrated at the very least a substantial question as to the merits regarding the constitutionality of both the trigger ban and the six week ban," Perry wrote in his order granting the temporary injunction. "As such, they are entitled to injunctive relief until the matter can be fully resolved on the merits."

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The judge said in his order that his court was not tasked with finding whether the Kentucky Constitution explicitly contains the right to an abortion, "but rather with discerning whether the laws at issue constituting near total bans on abortion violate the rights of privacy, self-determination, equal protection, and religious freedom guaranteed by the Kentucky Constitution."

All those rights were raised in the ACLU lawsuit. Judge Perry addressed each of them in his opinion.

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Regarding the rights to privacy, Judge Perry wrote that, "The right to privacy has been consistently recognized as an integral part of the guarantee of liberty in the 1891 Kentucky Constitution since its inception."

Perry wrote that the Kentucky Supreme Court has held that the state constitution prohibits state action "thus intruding upon the inalienable rights possessed by the citizens" of Kentucky.

The judge said in his ruling that state's six week abortion ban compromises a woman's right to self-determination in the state constitution by "taking away the choice to have an abortion in many instances."

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Regarding equal protection under the law in the Kentucky constitution, Judge Perry wrote, "Only in the context of pregnancy is a woman's bodily autonomy taken away from her. This is a burden that falls directly, and only, on females. It is inescapable, therefore, that these laws discriminate on the basis of sex."

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On religious freedom, Judge Perry said in his opinion that the belief that life begins at the moment of fertilization is "a distinctly Christian and Catholic belief."

"The General Assembly is not permitted to single out and endorse the doctrine of a favored faith for preferred treatment," Judge Perry wrote.

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