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Federal Court Reverses Kentucky Ultrasound Law Ruling, In Victory For Bevin

AP Photo/Steven Senne

A previously-invalidated Kentucky law mandating that physicians performing abortions first conduct an ultrasound and describe the results to patients is constitutional – that’s according to an opinion penned by 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge and Trump appointee John Bush.

The 2-1 decision found that the law does not run counter to physicians’ First Amendment rights. The ruling now reverses a lower court finding last year, which pointed to psychological harm the rule could cause patients.

The 2017 law drew an immediate legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed on behalf of the state’s last remaining abortion clinic, the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.

Thursday’s decision hands a win to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who has been vocal in his defense of the legislature’s increasingly uncompromising moves on abortion. During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers approved a collection of new anti-abortion bills that went further than previous state efforts to curtail the procedure. Opponents say, all told, they amount to a "essentially a complete ban." 

The ultrasound case is only one of several ongoing abortion-related fights. 

This week, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, along with counterparts in 20 states and the District of Columbia, is urging the same court to uphold a 2018 ruling striking down a 1998 law requiring abortion clinics to obtain agreements with ambulance services and hospitals.

Attorneys for Bevin have argued the law is necessary for patient safety.

A spokesman for the governor has criticized Beshear for siding with “pro-abortion forces.” Bevin has also taken to social media to blast the Democrat and 2019 gubernatorial candidate for his lack of action on House Bill 5, a newly-signed measure barring abortions for reasons of race, gender, or perceived disability that’s also facing a court challenge.

“We’ve seen no word from our attorney general, who’s supposed to defend the laws of Kentucky. He’s been silent on this, hasn’t had a peep to say,” the governor said in a Facebook video. “It pretty much speaks volumes about his thinking on this.”

Beshear said in a statement that it’s his duty to uphold the constitution.

“By ignoring state and federal laws the governor’s actions threaten the health and safety of women,” the state's chief law officer said.