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What does Friday’s landmark decision overturning Roe v. Wade mean for Kentucky?

A demonstrator holds up a sign during an anti-abortion rights rally in the Kentucky Capitol.
Josh James
A demonstrator holds up a sign during an anti-abortion rights rally in the Kentucky Capitol.

While the U.S. Supreme Court ruling reversing course on abortion rights sent shockwaves across the country, Kentucky lawmakers, and abortion rights advocates, have long anticipated the day.

Clinic sources in Kentucky say they are halting abortions in the state, after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe automatically set off a 2019 trigger law, effectively banning the procedure in the commonwealth.

The trigger law says no one may “employ any instrument or procedure upon a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of an unborn human being.” It also bars anyone from knowingly prescribing, procuring, or selling any medicinal abortion substances with the intent to aid an abortion.

The law includes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Only doctors performing an abortion to prevent death, the substantial risk of death, or serious impairment to a life-sustaining organ of a mother can do so without putting themselves in danger of a Class D felony — punishable by up to five years behind bars.

For women seeking abortion, Planned Parenthood’s Tamara Weider told WLEX the law will create major burdens, especially for those living in far flung parts of the state, as most neighboring states are not likely to be considered havens.

"It's hard enough to get to Louisville, but think about having to go even further, take more more time off from work or school, more time for daycare for the children you already have, because most people seeking abortions already have children."
Tamara Weider, Planned Parenhood

Weider says her organization will be suing to block enforcement of the trigger law.

Meanwhile, energized by the ruling, anti-abortion rights advocates in Kentucky don’t necessarily see their fight as over. Republican Sen. Donald Douglas told reporters in May that GOP majorities are prepared to return to Frankfort to further enshrine abortion restrictions.

"We are ready to meet and we are ready to create some of the toughest laws that there are."
Sen. Donald Douglas (R)

And this November, Kentucky voters could go further in strengthening abortion opponents’ hand, by passing an amendment. It would add language ensuring that nothing in the state Constitution could be construed to secure or protect the right to an abortion, or require the funding of an abortion.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.