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‘Trigger law’ means most abortions end in Kentucky with Supreme Court Decision to overturn Roe v. Wade

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter
As the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade Friday, eliminating a constitutional right to abortion after almost 50 years, abortion is now over in Kentucky as well, except when a mother’s life is in danger, thanks to a “trigger law’ put in place by the legislature in 2019.

Kentucky is one of eight states that now ban abortions in most cases; others are Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. About half the states are expected to follow suit.

U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling was written by Samuel A. Alito Jr. who was joined by five other justices. The three dissenting justices were Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John Roberts concurred in the judgment only, and according to reports, would have limited the decision to upholding the Mississippi law at issue in the case, which banned abortions after 15 weeks. He called the decision a “serious jolt to the legal system” and said both sides displayed “a relentless freedom from doubt on the legal issue that I cannot share.”

The high court’s ruling in the Mississippi case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization certainly will have a profound effect on women’s reproductive health in America.

The decision basically allows states to regulate abortion.

Kentucky had in place a “trigger law” to stop abortions immediately once the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. Exceptions in the law are when a mother’s life is in danger or to prevent permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ of a pregnant woman. The law does not include exceptions for rape or incest, or for a minor seeking an abortion.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in his Twitter account that the Supreme Court decision “triggers an extremist Kentucky law that creates a total ban in Kentucky that will eliminate all options for victims of rape or incest.”

Justice Samuel Alito

He said he knows as a former state attorney general that “violent crimes happen, and not having options for victims of rape and incest is wrong.”

Cameron noted in his news conference that Beshear senior advisor Rocky Adkins and House Democratic Whip Angie Hatton of Whitesburg voted for the trigger law in 2019.

Cameron is running for governor next year in the Republican primary, hoping to keep Beshear, a Democrat, from winning another four-year term.

Sebastian Kitchen, with the Kentucky Democratic Party, said, “If Daniel Cameron had actually ever prosecuted a case, he would know the trauma for victims and try to protect them instead of using them to score political points with extremists in his party.

“The vast majority of Kentuckians support exceptions for survivors of violent crime and it’s shameful the current attorney general — too busy trying to get elected to another office — supports slamming the door on options for survivors of rape and incest, including children.”
Cameron later issued an advisory about the court decision’s impact on Kentucky, saying the trigger law does not prohibit contraceptives and does not apply when a pregnant mother suffers a miscarriage.

The ACLU of Kentucky said it and its partners are prepared to file a case in state court arguing that the Kentucky Constitution allows for the legal right to access abortion.

“We will aggressively litigate this claim on behalf of our Louisville-based client, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, seeking relief from the courts that will allow all providers to resume providing abortions as soon as possible,” said an ACLU release.

While the fight continues in the courts, the ACLU said it will deploy “a multi-pronged strategy” to defend abortion access at the ballot box, including working with Protect Kentucky Access, a coalition of Kentucky reproductive freedom advocates.

It said the coalition is informing Kentuckians of the “extreme” proposal to amend the state Constitution at the ballot box in November to state there is no right to abortion in Kentucky.

“If abortion is, in fact, outlawed in Kentucky, we know many people will not be able to leave the state to seek care elsewhere, and we know this reality will disproportionately harm people living at or near the poverty line, Black and Brown Kentuckians, and those without the partner, familial, or job support needed to leave the state,” said Jackie McGranahan, policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky.

“Whatever shifting barriers anti-abortion judges and politicians put before us, we will never stop fighting for people’s ability to make their own reproduction health care decisions, including whether and when to become parents,” said Heather Gatnarek, ACLU of Kentucky staff attorney. “No one should have the decision to remain pregnant forced upon them, which is what anti-abortion politicians seek to do.”


“The ACLU of Kentucky is bringing everything it has to the fight for abortion access following this devastating ruling,” said Amber Duke, ACLU of Kentucky interim executive director. “We are mobilizing our members, supporters, and volunteers to show up at the statehouse and the ballot box to demand our rights to bodily autonomy. As we navigate a future in which the government can force Kentuckians to remain pregnant against their will, we’ll be doubling down on our work to end maternal mortality, secure paid leave, and expand access to childcare.”

With the new trigger law in place in Kentucky, a person in Kentucky who provides an abortion now can be charged with a Class D felony, subject up to five years in prison. A patient who gets an abortion will face no criminal penalties.

The state’s only two providers – Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville – had to stop the procedures at once Friday. Some neighboring states still will offer abortions, primarily Illinois and Virginia and the Kentucky Health Justice Network has said it will try to help women in Kentucky seeking abortions find sound medical help.

NKY’s Addia Wuchner, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life, praised Friday’s ruling.

“Today, our nation rights one of its most terrible wrongs,” she said in a release. “The prayers of millions of pro-life Americans have been answered as our legal system begins to recognize the rights, dignity and humanity of every precious child. Roe was wrong the day it was handed down, and today’s decision sets course for a new generation of life in America.”

Wuchner added: “We rejoice today in this long-awaited victory. But now our work to uphold the cause of life truly begins.

“This November, every Kentucky voter will have the chance to stand up for our pro-life values and vote Yes for Life. This Pro-Life Constitutional Amendment is critical to guaranteeing we don’t fall victim to another tragedy of judicial activism like Roe here in Kentucky.

“Voting ‘YES’ on Constitutional Amendment Number Two is our opportunity ensure no judge puts his own politics above the will of the people and invents a right to abortion in our Commonwealth.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville, who helped bring about a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, called the ruling in Dobbs “courageous and correct.”

File photo

“This is an historic victory for the Constitution and for the most vulnerable in our society,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Lewis County, said, “The  Supreme Court has taken two great steps to save lives in the past 48 hours: it reaffirmed Heller’s decision regarding self-defense rights and repealed Roe v. Wade to allow state legislatures to defend the unborn.”

In the Heller case, the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law that made it difficult to obtain a handgun carry permit.

Kentucky’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, said the ruling means “people will suffer. It means women will die.”

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said, “The ruling today is a victory for the pro-life movement and advocates for states’ rights. The issue of abortion is best suited for state legislatures to address.”

The Kentucky Pro-Life Caucus, chaired by Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, and Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, said. “This is a historical and tide-turning day in the fight to protect humanity’s most innocent.

“Roe v. Wade was a flawed precedent that has persisted on faulty legal grounds for nearly five decades. The consequences are the premature death of tens of millions of lives we will never know and who were denied their chance to leave an impression on this world. We remember them today.”

The Commonwealth Policy Center, a conservative, Christian non-profit based in Frankfort, said, the Supreme ruling to overturn Roe “turns the page on a dark chapter in American history marked by convenient disposal of tens of millions of healthy pre-born human lives.

“While this ruling does not automatically end abortion, it takes the issue out of the hands of the federal government and restores authority to the states to decide their own abortion policy.”

The Hill reported Friday that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged that the Dobbs ruling does not affect any rights besides abortion but said the reasoning in it could make vulnerable other rights the court has affirmed.

He mentioned the rights that married couples have a right to access contraceptives, that states can not outlaw consensual gay sex, and that people have a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

The court’s three liberal members – Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor – said in their dissent, “And no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work.”

Read the complete decision here.

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One Comment

  1. Richard says:

    Governor Beshear, a child that is the product of rape or incest has as much worth as any other child. Should he/she pay for their lives because of the crimes of the father? Rep. John Yarmuth, saying that women will die is a tired argument not rooted in reality. In fact, more women will have a chance at life now, at least in some states, where all life is valued.

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