Kentucky judge blocks fetal heartbeat law

Kentucky judge blocks fetal heartbeat law
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A federal judge in Kentucky blocked a fetal “heartbeat” law Friday that would have banned abortions six weeks into pregnancy, The New York Times reported.

The bill, which was signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, would have been one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country.

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Judge David Hale from the Western District of Kentucky ruled the law was potentially unconstitutional and delayed its implementation for at least 14 days until a hearing can be held.

The bill, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, was one of two bills passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature restricting abortion access. The other, which has not been approved by Bevin yet, would prohibit abortions if a woman wants to end her pregnancy because of the diagnosis of a disability in the fetus.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged both bills in a lawsuit filed this week on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s only licensed abortion clinic.

“We think this is a very straightforward legal issue,” Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, told the Times. “States can’t ban abortion. It has been well settled over 40 years ago in Roe v. Wade.”

Steve Pitt, general counsel to the governor, told the Times on Saturday that the ruling was not unexpected “given the minimal amount of briefing that has occurred.”

“This case or others like it from other states will result in major changes in abortions in the U.S. in the near future,” he said. “The ACLU, Planned Parenthood and others favoring unlimited abortions know this and are in a panic.”

Kentucky is one of a number of states debating "heartbeat" bills.

Both Ohio and Iowa have had similar legislation approved by their state senates this month.

Critics of the bills claim women often don't know they are pregnant at the six-week mark, which is when fetal heartbeats can normally be detected.