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Kentucky Supreme Court leaves abortion ban in place amid legal challenge

Abortion-rights activists and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund hold a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The Kentucky state Supreme Court on Thursday ruled to allow laws banning abortion in the state to remain in effect amid challenges from the state's abortion providers. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/066e5c280800f6c07d84d59376f30240/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Abortion-rights activists and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund hold a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The Kentucky state Supreme Court on Thursday ruled to allow laws banning abortion in the state to remain in effect amid challenges from the state's abortion providers. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 18 (UPI) -- The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday voted to leave a block on abortion access in place as a pair of laws banning abortion in the state face legal challenges.

In a 5-2 decision, the state high court's seven justices ruled in favor of allowing the ban to remain in place while setting up an opportunity to hear oral arguments from the parties involved in the case on Nov. 15.

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"Because of the importance of these issues, it is vital that his Court ... expediently undertake a full and impartial review of the matter," Justice Michelle Keller wrote in a separate opinion alongside Justice Christopher Shea Nickell, which concurred with the result of the order but disputed the legal rationale.

"Recognizing that matters of life, death, and health are at stake, time is of the essence."

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Keller's opinion also noted that the hearing will come after the Nov. 8 general election which will feature a ballot measure in which voters will decide whether they agree that the state constitution contains no right to abortion.

"We look forward to that expression of the will of the commonwealth," the opinion read.

Keller and Nickell joined Justices Robert Conley, Debra Hembree Lambert and Laurence VanMeter in agreeing with the order.

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Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. and Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth Hughes dissented, stating that appeals Judge Larry E. Thompson erred by reinstating the ban and asserting that abortion access should continue throughout the legal challenge.

"This case raises serious and important issues involving access to abortion and (challengers) making a compelling argument that women may suffer irreparable and permanent harm absent emergency relief from this court," Minton wrote in the dissent.

"It is difficult to comprehend a more important or serious legal issue than access to abortion in the commonwealth."

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The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Kentucky and Planned Parenthood issued a joint statement condemning the order.

"The Supreme Court's decision to allow Kentucky's abortion bans to remain in effect puts nearly a million people's health care in jeopardy. Abortion is not only health care but also a critical individual freedom. Make no mistake: abortion bans result in tragic health outcomes and are a form of control over our bodies," the groups wrote. "Despite this setback, the fight continues. We will proceed with our case to restore and protect reproductive freedom in Kentucky. Politicians and the government should never have the authority to force a person to remain pregnant against their will."

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Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, praised the ruling on Twitter.

"We are pleased with this victory for life and the rule of law and will continue to prepare for the arguments the Court has scheduled," he wrote.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear declared during a press conference that he believes the ban on abortions is "wrong" and that he thinks "the majority of Kentuckians agree" with him.

"I think the Kentucky Supreme Court has left in place one of the most extremist laws across the United States," Beshear said. "It bans abortion for everyone, meaning that victims of rape and incest have absolutely no options and have to potentially carry their rapist's child."

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