Both clinics in Louisville, the state's largest, claim they had to stop abortions due to the fact that officials didn't have time to create guidelines to comply with the law. The law was passed by the Republican-dominated legislature a week ago, over the vetoes of the Democratic governor. Andy Beshear.
Advocates claim that the situation is a foreshadowing of what could happen in Republican-leaning States across the country if Roe v. Wade (the 1973 landmark decision that established a nationwide right to abortion) is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The new law, effective immediately, bans abortions after 15 week of pregnancy. It replaces the previous 20-week limit that was passed by the state. This restriction has been also adopted in four other states.
The new regulations also place stricter restrictions on medication abortions. This means that women must be examined by a doctor prior to receiving abortion pills. It also includes new reporting requirements for providers. Noncompliance could result in severe fines or felony penalties.
Federal lawsuits were filed by attorneys for clinics to challenge the law. In the meantime, Kentucky women are forced to travel outside of the state to end their pregnancies. Or wait for a judge to decide whether to temporarily block the law. Advocates claim that many of the affected women are young and poor.
Meg Sasse Stern (director of Kentucky Health Justice Network's abortion fund), stated that the mood is one characterized by anger and frustration. This group promotes reproductive justice in Kentucky. These people know what they want. They knew right away that they had made a decision. They know that they should be able access this care. It's safe, it's common, and it should always be available."
Kentucky's new law supporters claim that the goal is to strengthen oversight and protect women's' health.
The governor vetoed the measure because it did not make exceptions for pregnancies that were caused by rape, incest, or for funding. Its constitutionality was also questioned by him.
Louisville's Planned Parenthood clinic has stopped offering abortions while awaiting a ruling from the judge. However, it continues to offer other services such as health screenings and birth control. Officials worry that the law may discourage women who are in need of assistance from seeking help.
"The difficult thing about Planned Parenthood is that you don't know anyone you're not seeing, especially if women try to arrange things themselves," Dr. Kara Cadwallader said. She was chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood in Kentucky.
She said, "The overall picture is sort-of mass confusion if patients are trying to get care, especially for those who have economic hurdles that make access to any type of care more difficult."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky was another group that is leading the legal fight. They pledged to "never cease fighting" for women's right to make their own reproductive choices. The group stated on Twitter that "the government shouldn't have the power to forbid a woman from having a baby against her will."
Daniel Cameron, Kentucky's Republican Attorney General, stated that he would vigorously defend the law.
Cameron stated last week that HB 3 was passed by the General Assembly to protect life and ensure women's safety. Cameron also said that they are ready to defend the new law.
Opponents claim that the measure would infringe on privacy by requiring abortion providers to provide more information to patients. It also requires that the licensed funeral establishments can bury or cremat fetal remains, which increases costs.
Supporters of abortion rights say that Kentucky's sudden inability to provide abortion access has created another hardship for women who have decided to end their pregnancies.
Many Kentucky women have to drive a long distance to get to the nearest clinic. Many of them have to arrange for child care and transportation.
Kentucky Health Justice Network provides financial and logistical support for women who are seeking abortions. Sasse Stern stated that some women who sought the help of this group chose to wait for a judge's decision. Others have made appointments at clinics in other states.
She said, "For some people it's okay to wait, especially for those who are early in their pregnancy." They may be able delay an appointment by a few weeks.
She added that "if someone is late in pregnancy or has health problems that are related to that pregnancy, it may be very important that they seek care."
Kentucky abortion rights advocates fear that the week just passed could be a sign of things to follow if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the context of a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, the justices will be asked to invalidate the 50-year-old decision.
Cadwallader stated that Kentucky's current state is a "frightening preview" of the future.