In the wake of the Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling in 2022 that overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent on abortion rights, several states across the country immediately implemented previously passed pro-life "trigger laws" to ban or substantially restrict abortion procedures.
Kentucky was one of those states with two such laws -- a complete ban and a six-week "heartbeat" ban -- and now the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that those two laws can remain in effect, at least for the time being, Breitbart reported.
Both of those pro-life laws had been duly passed by the Kentucky legislature in 2019 but sat idle and unenforced until the Dobbs ruling cleared the way for them to take effect.
Notably, both the complete ban and the six-week ban are exceptionally strict with no exceptions for women impregnated by rape or incest and only a narrow exception to preserve the life and health of the mother.
Predictably, both laws were swiftly challenged as unconstitutional by abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, and those challenges were supported by the pro-abortion American Civil Liberties Union.
Shortly after the challenges were filed, a circuit court judge issued an injunction to block the enforcement of both laws, only for that injunction to be lifted by an appeals court judge, which resulted in the case being transferred to the Kentucky Supreme Court, albeit in a limited manner that only considered the injunction and not necessarily the laws in question.
According to the majority opinion authored by Kentucky Deputy Chief Justice Debra Hembree Lambert, the lower circuit court was in error to issue the preliminary injunction and the appeals court was correct to lift it and allow the laws to remain in effect while the challenge proceeds.
That is because it was determined that the abortion providers who filed suit lacked "third-party standing" to argue on behalf of their patients against either law and only had "first-party standing" to argue on constitutional grounds against the complete ban on abortions.
"To be clear, this opinion does not in any way determine whether the Kentucky Constitution protects or does not protect the right to receive an abortion, as no appropriate party to raise that issue is before us," Lambert wrote. "Nothing in this opinion shall be construed to prevent an appropriate party from filing suit at a later date."
The justice ultimately concluded that the circuit court "abused its discretion" to issue the injunction and affirmed the appeals court's decision to lift the injunction. She then remanded the case back to the circuit court to essentially start from scratch and consider only the "first-party constitutional claims" of the abortion providers against the complete ban.
Though not a complete victory, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) celebrated anyway, and said in a statement, "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."
"We are very pleased that Kentucky's high court has allowed these laws to remain in effect while the case proceeds in circuit court," he added. "This is a significant victory, and we will continue to stand up for the unborn by defending these laws."
In contrast, the ACLU issued a press release with a joint statement from the abortion providers that decried how 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."
"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. This fight is not over," the challengers added.