FRANKFORT, Ky. (BP) — A federal judge has postponed a hearing on whether to grant a temporary restraining order to block enforcement of a new law in Kentucky requiring expectant mothers considering abortions to first undergo ultrasounds.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Colin Lindsay rescheduled the hearing for March 23 at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the law passed by the Kentucky General Assembly on Jan. 7. The hearing had originally been set for Feb. 16.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed the law along with a ban on late-term abortions the same day, and both took effect immediately.
The ACLU filed suit two days later on behalf of the state’s only abortion provider, EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, claiming the law violates First Amendment rights.
The ultrasound measure requires that abortion providers display the ultrasound images so that expectant mothers can see them. They can avert their eyes if they choose to. Physicians face a $100,000 fine for a first offense and a $250,000 fine for subsequent offenses.
Defendants in the case are Attorney General Andy Beshear, Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson and Michael Rodman with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure. The attorney general’s office has filed motions asking the judge to dismiss Beshear and Rodman as defendants. Beshear’s office is not representing Glisson.
The late-term abortion law, meanwhile, bans the procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger. Physicians who violate the measure could have their medical licenses revoked and be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Abortions at Planned Parenthood in Louisville and EMW in Lexington were suspended last year after the Bevin administration filed suit that they lacked proper state licensure. Those cases have not yet been resolved in court.
In February 2016, Bevin signed a bill amending the state’s informed consent law to give women patients and doctors the option of consulting in person or by video conferencing before an abortion — the first pro-life measure enacted in Kentucky in 12 years
Since 1998, Kentucky law had required women to meet with a doctor or a doctor-designated representative, but some physicians purportedly had been circumventing the rule by using pre-recorded phone messages. The 2016 measure requires women seeking abortions to be personally informed of medical risks and benefits at least 24 hours prior to consenting to a procedure.