The Kentucky Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear oral arguments in a case that will likely dictate the future of statewide abortion access.
At 10 am on November 15, justices are scheduled to begin weighing the merits of a legal challenge to Kentucky’s trigger law and a separate six-week ban on abortion. The lawsuit was brought by the state’s two outpatient abortion providers, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, in late June after federal abortion protections were dropped and both state laws took effect.
The trigger law bans all abortions except in medical emergencies to preserve a pregnant person’s life. The six-week ban criminalizes abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy. Together, the pair of laws have virtually eliminated abortion access in Kentucky.
The state’s two abortion clinics argue that by denying an individual access to comprehensive reproductive health care, which includes abortion, both laws infringe on one’s right to privacy and bodily autonomy, which are protected under the Kentucky Constitution.
Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron has pushed back against that claim, insisting that since the state constitution does not explicitly mention the word abortion, it does not inherently protect access to the medical procedure.
Oral arguments begin exactly one week after Kentucky voters rejected Amendment 2, which would have amended the state constitution to prohibit a right to abortion or the funding of abortion. Had it passed, it would’ve invalidated abortion clinics’ central claim that the state constitution provides protections for abortion. But since Amendment 2 failed and the constitution remains unchanged, justices still have the option to interpret the constitution as containing abortion protections.
Just because the state Supreme Court is no longer barred from interpreting the constitution in this way doesn’t mean it will. Regardless, the ultimate decision from the high court will have statewide consequences — either some degree of abortion access will be restored, or the state’s near-total ban will stay in place and abortion will remain largely illegal.
Tune in to a live stream of the Kentucky Supreme Court’s proceedings here.
Herald-Leader reporter Alex Acquisto (@AcquistoA) will also have live updates and analysis on Twitter.
Check back on kentucky.com later today for a full story from the hearing.