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Kentucky Ultrasound Abortion Requirement Back In Court Wednesday

Ryland Barton

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court will hear arguments over a Kentucky law requiring doctors to show and describe a fetal ultrasound to patients before conducting an abortion.

The law also requires doctors to play audio of the fetal heartbeat, even if patients object.

The measure was struck down by a lower court last fall, citing concerns over the psychological harm it could cause. But Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Kentucky legislature passed the ultrasound abortion law in early 2017 and it was quickly challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the last abortion provider in Kentucky, EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.

Similar laws have passed in 14 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that gathers data about reproductive health. Courts have blocked the policies in two states besides Kentucky.

The law was one of the first policies passed in 2017 when Republicans took control of the legislature for the first time in state history.

That year, the legislature also passed a law banning abortions after the 20th week in pregnancy and a policy putting Planned Parenthood organizations in the state at the back of the line for federal funding.

This year, the legislature passed a law banning a common second trimester procedure known as “dilation and evacuation” after the 11th week of pregnancy. A federal judge temporarily blocked that law from going into effect.

Gov. Matt Bevin has also been locked in a battle with the state’s only abortion provider, arguing that the facility doesn’t have proper transfer agreements with a hospital and an ambulance service in case of emergencies.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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