- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2017

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has promised to appeal after a federal judge struck down a law that required doctors to perform ultrasounds and allow mothers to hear the heartbeat of the fetus before abortions.

Amanda Stamper, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bevin, said the administration is confident in the law’s constitutionality, pointing to similar laws that have been upheld.

“We are disappointed in the court’s ruling and will appeal immediately to the 6th Circuit,” Ms. Stamper said. “We are confident the constitutionality of HB 2 will be upheld, as similar laws have been in both the 5th and 8th Circuits.”

In a one-page decision handed down Wednesday, Judge David Hale agreed with plaintiffs that the law, which went into effect in January, violated the First Amendment rights of doctors.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on the same day that Mr. Bevin signed the ultrasound bill into law.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said the ruling “puts us one step closer to getting Kentucky politicians out of the exam room.”

“We are pleased that Kentuckians will no longer be subjected to this demeaning and degrading invasion into their personal health care decisions,” Ms. Kolbi-Molinas said in a statement.

The ruling comes as another pro-life policy championed by Mr. Bevin has drawn legal scrutiny.

The EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s last abortion clinic, filed a federal lawsuit against the Bevin administration in March, challenging the constitutionality of health and safety regulations that the clinic says would put it out of business.

“If EMW is forced to close its doors, there will be no licensed abortion facility in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” the lawsuit says. “Kentucky women would be left without access to a critical and constitutionally protected medical procedure.”

The government maintains that all medical facilities, regardless of whether they perform abortions, are held to the same health and safety standards, including transportation agreements with local hospitals in the event of an emergency.

“Essentially all health care facilities in Kentucky are required to have such agreements, and it is telling that the abortion industry believes that it alone should be exempt,” Ms. Stamper told The Associated Press.

Arguments for that case were presented in court earlier this month.

While ultrasound requirements were deemed to violate the First Amendment rights of physicians in Kentucky, other states including California, Illinois and Hawaii have passed laws that would force pro-life clinics to advertise the availability of state-sponsored abortions.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group, asked a federal court to halt the Hawaii law earlier this month, and filed a complaint with the Trump administration that could put the federal funding of offending states in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Thursday overturning the state’s ban on taxpayer funding for abortions.

At a press conference announcing his decision, Mr. Rauner, a Republican, said “no woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman would make purely based on her income.”

“I believe that a woman living with limited financial needs should not be put in a position where she has to choose something different than a woman of higher income would be able to choose,” Mr. Rauner said. “These are my personal beliefs.”

Mr. Rauner’s views have changed since April, when he said he would not sign House Bill 40 if passed by the state legislature. He said he ultimately decided to sign the bill after he was unable to find “common ground” during debate over the legislation.

HB 40 lifts a ban on the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions in the state’s health care and Medicaid programs. Government workers and low-income women who get their health insurance from the state will now receive coverage for abortions.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, said the governor violated “his promise to protect Illinois taxpayers from forced funding of abortion.”

“Unfortunately, Governor Rauner gave into the pressure of the abortion industry, which has moved from choice to coercion, forcing people to not only support their extreme abortion agenda, but also to pay for it,” Ms. Hawkins said in a statement.


• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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