Politics

A federal court in Louisville has begun hearing arguments over a new set of abortion restrictions that passed out of the Republican-led Kentucky legislature earlier this year.

The only abortion provider in the state is suing Gov. Matt Bevin over the measure, which requires doctors to induce fetal death before performing “dilation and evacuation” abortions — the most common procedure for women seeking to end their pregnancies in the second trimester.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney with the ACLU representing EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, argued on Tuesday that the requirements are medically unnecessary, create new risks for patients and would “all but eliminate” second trimester abortions.

Bevin’s general counsel Steve Pitt called the dilation and evacuation procedure “inhumane, unethical and uncivilized” and argued that the new restrictions would not limit access to abortions.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley temporarily blocked the law from going into effect while the lawsuit is ongoing.

Anti-abortion activists wearing red packed into the courtroom to watch the proceedings on Tuesday.

Rep. Addia Wuchner, a Republican from Burlington and sponsor of the legislation, addressed a crowd of activists outside the federal courthouse.

“This is a critical hour for Kentucky. For the lives of the unborn. For too long, we’ve sterilized our conscience thinking about abortion just as a medical procedure,” Wuchner said.

Republican lawmakers have passed a handful of anti-abortion laws since taking full control of the Kentucky legislature in 2017, including a ban on abortions after the 19th week in pregnancy, an ultrasound abortion requirement and a policy that puts Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for federal funds that funnel through state government.

Similar laws in six other states have drawn legal challenges and have been totally or temporarily blocked by courts, however Mississippi and West Virginia have similar policies on the books.

Last week, Texas officials began arguing to overturn a ruling that its dilation and evacuation ban was unconstitutional.

No matter how the court rules, the decision will likely be appealed.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.