Hours after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn the 1973 landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, hundreds gathered in downtown Louisville to protest the abortion ban that went immediately into effect statewide.
Kentucky is one of 13 states with a trigger law on the books, which was set to go into effect as soon as the court overturned Roe. It now makes it a felony for anyone to provide an abortion or help a person get one. There’s a narrow exception to save the life of the pregnant patient.
“Abortion access stopped today in Kentucky,” Jackie McGranahan with the ACLU of Kentucky said to the crowd, who carried signs reading things like “Abortion is health care,” and “They’ll come for you next.”
She said forcing someone to carry a pregnancy will have “life-altering consequences,” including serious health risks, increased difficulty in escaping an abusive relationship, the entrenchment of poverty, and the derailing of people’s education.
“Abortion access, it’s been very shaky in Kentucky for many many years. And it’s something that everyone needs,” McGranahan continued. “One in four people have had an abortion in Kentucky and the United States; we all know someone.”
She added that the ban will take a disproportionate toll on already marginalized communities. Black people are three times more likely to die than white women during or shortly after birth. Kentucky’s maternal mortality rate is already twice as high as the nation’s. If abortion was banned across the U.S., McGranahan said figures suggest there would be a 21% increase in maternal mortality. For Black people, that would be a 33% increase.
Hundreds attended the press conference-turned-rally. Lisa Migliori Black and her daughter were dressed as women from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian story in which people don’t have control over their reproduction.
“I never thought we’d be here, and I’m fearful for what’s coming next,” Migliori Black said. “The strides that we’ve made in gay rights and trans rights … I don’t feel like I can be proud of this country anymore.”
Clare Hagan was there as well. They’re worried women will be forced to get unsafe abortions in the state.
“I love Kentucky, I am proud to be a Kentuckian, I believe Kentucky is worth fighting for,” they said. “The fact that there is a trigger law makes this even more urgent and even more important because women will start suffering and women will start dying more immediately.”
Speakers included local and state Democratic elected officials, including Ky. Rep. Pamela Stevenson and Sen. Karen Berg, outspoken opponents of legislation that restricts abortion.
“On this day, the Supreme Court told 50% of us, ‘You don’t matter,’” Stevenson said.
“‘We don’t care about you dying,’ because the people that got money will find a way to get them.”
The speakers urged people to get to the polls in November, when a referendum could further block the possibility of abortion access. While the Kentucky constitution doesn’t currently mention abortion, the proposed ballot amendment would change that, explicitly stating that there are no protections for it in the state.
Following the Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center – Kentucky’s two providers, stopped abortions.
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, which represents EMW, say they plan to challenge Kentucky’s ban in state court.
“I just cannot overstate enough, Kentucky cannot have another barrier to health care in a state like ours where we already have such limited resources to maternal health,” Tamarra Wieder with Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, told WFPL earlier Friday.
On the mic Friday afternoon, she put it plainer.
“All of Kentucky is now in a post-Roe world.”
Ryan Van Velzer contributed reporting.