Federal court hears Kentucky abortion procedure law appeal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky officials have asked a federal appeals court to restore a state law that bans a common second trimester abortion procedure.

The law passed in 2018 was struck down last year by a federal judge in Frankfort, who ruled that it creates a “substantial obstacle” to a woman’s right to an abortion.

The Kentucky Attorney General's office argued on behalf of the law Wednesday before the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Deputy Solicitor General Matthew Kuhn said the law does not ban a "a particular method of abortion, all it does is it change how the abortion must be performed by requiring a reasonable alternative procedure.” That procedure in most cases includes a pre-abortion injection to terminate the fetus.

The Kentucky law was challenged by the EMW Surgical Center, the lone clinic performing abortions in Kentucky.

Andrew Beck, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, argued on behalf of the clinic. He told the court Kentucky's law is unconstitutional and said women forced to seek alternative procedures required by the law would have to leave the state.

“It is a little-practiced procedure,” Beck said.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the law simply ensures that the fetus is deceased before it is removed. Cameron campaigned on his opposition to abortion, reflecting a change from his predecessor, Andy Beshear, a Democrat who is now governor. Cameron held a news conference at the courthouse after the arguments Wednesday morning.

“At issue today is our ability, as Kentuckians, to show compassion to the most vulnerable,” Cameron said in a release. He said would “defend the law all the way to the United States Supreme Court, if necessary.”

EMW challenged the law right after it was signed by former Gov. Matt Bevin. A consent order had suspended its enforcement pending the outcome of the federal court trial.

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