The Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled Thursday that a lower court wrongfully stopped the enforcement of two state abortion laws, according to court documents.
The two measures are Kentucky’s so-called trigger law banning the procedure and a separate “heartbeat” law restricting abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy.
Siding with Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Justice Debra Hembree Lambert asserted in her opinion that the circuit court “abused its discretion by granting abortion provider’s motion for a temporary injunction.”
Planned Parenthood, along with an abortion provider represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kentucky, sued to block Kentucky’s sweeping abortion laws after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
They filed two complaints challenging the two statutes, which effectively prohibit abortions in Kentucky except in limited circumstances where it is necessary to preserve the life of the mother, according to the opinion.
The near-total bans outlaw abortion in most instances with no exceptions for rape or incest, making Kentucky one of 13 states that have banned or severely restricted abortion.
The plaintiffs argued that the laws violate the state’s constitutional rights to privacy, bodily autonomy, and self-determination, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU said in a statement.
After a circuit court temporarily enjoined the abortion bans last summer, an appellate court judge granted the attorney general’s emergency request to dissolve the injunction, but an appellate panel later recommended that the state’s highest court weigh in on the injunction.
The Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled that the abortion providers did not have the standing to challenge the six-week ban because they had not argued it violated their own constitutional rights, only those of their patients.
Although the court found that the abortion providers have standing to challenge the trigger ban, it ruled that the abortion providers did not show they were sufficiently harmed by the ban to warrant a temporary injunction on its enforcement, according to the opinion.
Instead, the court remanded the case to the lower court to determine the constitutionality of the trigger ban, the opinion stated.
The opinion does not determine whether the Kentucky Constitution protects the right to receive an abortion, as there was no “appropriate party” to raise the issue in the suit, according to Lambert.
“Nothing in this opinion shall be construed to prevent an appropriate party from filing suit at a later date,” she said.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU expressed disappointment with the ruling but said “this fight is not over.”
“Once again, the Kentucky Supreme Court failed to protect the health and safety of nearly a million people in the state by refusing to reinstate the lower court order blocking the law,” the statement said.
The statement added, “Even after Kentuckians overwhelmingly voted against an anti-abortion ballot measure, abortion remains banned in the state. We are extremely disappointed in today’s decision, but we will never give up the fight to restore bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom in Kentucky.”
Cameron called the ruling a “significant victory” Thursday.
“Since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade last June, we have vigorously defended Kentucky’s Human Life Protection Act and Heartbeat Law,” he said in a statement. “We are very pleased that Kentucky’s high court has allowed these laws to remain in effect while the case proceeds in circuit court.”