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Jefferson Circuit Judge gives both sides until July 18 to file pleadings before ruling on abortion injunction

By Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

A Jefferson circuit judge is giving both parties until July 18 to file pleadings before ruling on an injunction that would block two state laws on abortion following a day-long hearing Wednesday.

Judge Mitch Perry, who issued a temporary restraining order on June 30 that allowed abortions to resume in Kentucky after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, said he was undecided.

Despite a strong effort from Attorney General Daniel Cameron to put a stay on the judge’s temporary restraining order, abortion services will remain available at least until the judge decides on the injunction.

Cameron, who says there is no state right to abortion and wants the laws enforced, does not understand why Kentucky’s new abortion laws are being delayed.

“We’ve now asked all three levels of Kentucky’s judiciary to allow these laws to take effect,” he said in a social media statement. “Not a single judge at any level has suggested these laws are unconstitutional, yet we are unfortunately still prohibited from enforcing them.”

Abortion rights advocates argue Kentucky’s “trigger law” banning abortions, set up to take effect immediately after the Supreme Court’s ruling, violates the state’s constitution.

The other law being argued is the 2019 measure that bans abortions around six weeks of pregnancy once embryonic cardiac activity is detected.

Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center stopped performing abortions immediately after the Roe v. Wade decision on June 24 but restarted the day after the judge’s temporary injunction a week later.

The injunction hearing Wednesday examined the potential impacts of keeping the abortion ban in place.

Dr. Ashlee Bergin, who performs abortions at the EMW clinic and was the first witness called by the clinics’ attorneys Wednesday, testified about possible health risks of pregnancy. Bergin cited statistics showing pregnancy can be more dangerous to the health of a mother than abortion.

Vic Maddox, a deputy attorney general, asked Bergin during cross-examination to provide details of abortion procedures, prompting Perry to ask Maddox to “be less graphic.” Maddox also asked Bergin if she considers the fetus to be her patient, along with the mother.

“I don’t view it in those terms,” Bergin responded.

Witnesses called by the attorney general’s staff argued that the life of the fetus must also be accounted for when considering harm.

“You have to consider the other side as well … the rights of the prenatal human being,” O. Carter Snead, a Notre Dame bioethics professor, testified.

Dr. Monique Chireau Wubbenhorst, a board-certified OBGYN and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, was called as an expert witness by counsel for the attorney general.

Wubbenhorst said “abortion is not heath care,” and choosing to terminate a pregnancy for a medical reason and opting for an elective abortion were completely different. “Intent matters very much,” she said, and the “goal of abortion is to kill a baby.”

In the lawsuit seeking the injunction, attorneys for the clinics argued that women were being “forced to remain pregnant against their will” in violation of the state’s constitution.

Kentucky’s trigger law contains a narrow exception allowing a physician to perform the procedure if it is deemed necessary to prevent the death or permanent injury of the mother.

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