ACLU Challenges New Kentucky Abortion Law

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CN) – A Kentucky law requiring ultrasounds and heartbeat monitoring for women seeking abortions has been challenged by a group of doctors less than a day after the law took effect.

Three doctors, suing on behalf of their patients alongside the only licensed abortion provider in the state, say that House Bill 2 is unconstitutional because it requires a patient to “listen to … government-mandated speech while lying captive on the examination table.”

The complaint, filed Monday in Louisville federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, says the legislation requires doctors to perform ultrasounds and describe the images “regardless of whether the woman wishes to see the images, hear the heartbeat, or hear the description of the fetus.”

“Indeed, even if the woman objects to any or all of these procedures, and even if the experience is causing the woman emotional and/or psychological distress, the physician must perform the elements required by H.B. 2 against the woman’s will,” the lawsuit states.

Kentucky Attorney General Andrew Beshear is named as a defendant in the suit, along with Vickie Yates Brown Glisso, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and Michael Rodman, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure.

The AG’s office told Courthouse News it is reviewing the complaint and has no further comment.

The EMW Women’s Surgical Center and three of its doctors say that “by so forcibly coopting [sic] and perverting the informed consent process, H.B. 2 profoundly intrudes on the practice of medicine and violates basic principles of medical ethics. It forces physicians to deliver a government-mandated, ideological message to patients in violation of the First Amendment, all the while causing harm to their patients.”

The doctors say the law “contravenes medical ethics and basic principles of informed consent” because it “violates patient autonomy and the physician’s obligation not to act over the objection of a competent patient – a central tenet of ethical medical practice.”

H.B. 2 was signed into law on Monday by Gov. Matt Bevin and became effective immediately.

The law contains severe punishments for doctors who refuse to comply, including a fine up to $100,000 for a first offense and up to a $250,000 fine for each subsequent offense, along with possible discipline from the State Board of Medical Licensure.

The plaintiffs are represented by William Sharp of the ACLU of Kentucky, in Louisville. Sharp did not return a request for comment Tuesday.