ACLU

Kevin Willis

The ACLU of Kentucky has unveiled their 2021 legislative priorities, including a statewide ban on no-knock warrants, protecting reproductive rights and several measures seeking to reform the criminal justice system.

The civil rights organization’s wish list includes bills sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, including bipartisan efforts to reform the juvenile justice system, raise the threshold for felony theft and paid family leave for state workers.

Any successful legislation proposed in Kentucky requires Republican buy-in, since the party currently controls 75% of seats in the state legislature.

One of the group’s main efforts is Breonna’s Law for Kentucky, a bill that would ban most no-knock warrants across the state, require body cameras when officers are executing a warrant, and mandate interviews and drug testing of police within two hours of firing their weapons.

WKU Public Radio

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging Kentucky’s new voter ID law, arguing it increases Kentuckians’ risk of exposure to coronavirus by requiring people to visit ID-issuing offices during the pandemic.

The lawsuit also asks the court to extend Kentucky’s new expanded vote-by-mail policy beyond the June primary elections.

Ceridwen Cherry, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said that Kentuckians are being forced to choose between their health and their vote.

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A new report says black Kentuckians are more than nine times as likely than whites to get arrested for marijuana possession.  That’s much higher than the national average, according a study by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The study from the ACLU found the commonwealth ranks second in the nation for the largest racial disparities in arrests for marijuana possession.  That’s based on arrest data from 2010 to 2018, which updates the ACLU's 2013 report The War on Marijuana in Black and White.  Nationally, blacks are more than three times as likely to go to jail than whites.

Keturah Herron, a policy strategist at the ACLU of Kentucky, says law enforcement disproportionately targets black communities while sending hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system at a high cost.

Ryland Barton

On the same day Gov. Matt Bevin ceremonially signed four new abortion-related bills into law, a three-judge panel heard oral arguments Thursday in a case debating the legality of a state law that requires abortion providers have a written agreement with a hospital to transfer patients in case of an emergency. That law has been held up in courts since 2017.

A federal judge struck down the law late last year, but the state appealed that decision. Now it’s being considered by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Former Republican State Representative Addia Wuchner, who was present during the oral arguments and supports the law, said requiring a transfer agreement sets a basic standard of care for people seeking abortions. It kicks into effect if there’s an emergency like hemorrhaging.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Kentucky Abortion Law

May 13, 2019
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A federal judge on Friday struck down a Kentucky abortion law that would halt a common second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies. The state’s anti-abortion governor immediately vowed to appeal.

U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. ruled that the 2018 law would create a “substantial obstacle” to a woman’s right to an abortion, violating constitutionally protected privacy rights.

Kentucky’s only abortion clinic challenged the law right after it was signed by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. A consent order had suspended its enforcement pending the outcome of last year’s trial in which Bevin’s legal team and ACLU attorneys argued the case.

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The Kentucky Senate has voted to ban doctors from performing abortions if they believe the person seeking the procedure wants it because of the fetus’ race, sex or disability. The measure now heads to Gov. Matt Bevin for final approval.

Within minutes of the bill’s passage, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it would sue to block it.

Heather Gatnarek, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Kentucky, said the bill would interfere with a person’s right to decide whether to end a pregnancy.

Ryland Barton

A federal court in Louisville has begun hearing arguments over a new set of abortion restrictions that passed out of the Republican-led Kentucky legislature earlier this year.

The only abortion provider in the state is suing Gov. Matt Bevin over the measure, which requires doctors to induce fetal death before performing “dilation and evacuation” abortions — the most common procedure for women seeking to end their pregnancies in the second trimester.

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Next week, a federal court in Louisville will hear arguments over a new Kentucky law that bans a common type of abortion procedure.

Earlier this year the Kentucky legislature passed a bill banning dilation and evacuation abortions after the 11th week of pregnancy except in medical emergencies.

Gov. Matt Bevin signed the law and the ACLU sued on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Clinic, the state’s only abortion provider, arguing that the measure is unconstitutional.

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit to block a new Kentucky law putting more restrictions on abortions.

The ACLU filed the suit late Tuesday, shortly after Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed the measure, which took effect immediately.

School systems across Kentucky are making plans ahead of a national school walkout on Wednesday to protest gun violence. 

Organizers of the Women’s March have called for a 17-minute walkout at 10:00 a.m., one minute for each of the 17 victims killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14.

Warren County Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton says he supports students and their right to march in support of tighter gun laws.  He told WKU Public Radio that students won’t be punished as long as their activism is approved by their school principal.

J. Tyler Frankin

The ACLU of Kentucky is suing Gov. Matt Bevin for blocking people on Facebook and Twitter, saying the governor is violating the free speech rights of his constituents.

The challenge was filed on behalf of two Kentucky residents who say they have been “permanently blocked from engaging in political speech” on the governor’s official social media pages.

J. Tyler Franklin

The ACLU has asked Kentucky's Republican governor to stop blocking people from following his social media accounts.

The Courier-Journal reports the ACLU sent a letter to Gov. Matt Bevin on July 11 telling him that by blocking people from following his social media accounts, he is violating their rights of free speech under the state and federal constitutions. The newspaper had previously reported Bevin had blocked roughly 600 accounts from his official Facebook and Twitter pages. Blocking an account limits that person's ability to see Bevin's posts or to engage with him.

ACLU of Kentucky

The Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit for a case in Muhlenberg County over song lyrics in a Facebook post.

In August, James Evans of Central City posted lyrics on his Facebook page from a song called “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)” by the band Exodus. The 2010 song is about the Virginia Tech shooting.

Evans was arrested that month on a criminal charge of first-degree terroristic threatening, a felony. The charge was eventually dismissed.

The ACLU of Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit this week claiming Muhlenberg County Police Officer Michael Drake falsely arrested Evans for posting those lyrics. Evans’ attorneys—Brenda Popplewell and William Sharp—claim that arrest was illegal and violated their clients’ First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The lawsuit was filed at a U.S. District Court in the Western District of Kentucky and names Muhlenberg County and Officer Drake as defendants.

Democrats Quash Anti-Abortion Bills in Committee

Mar 20, 2014
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Three bills that would place more restrictions on abortion access in Kentucky have been rejected in party-line votes.

The House Health & Welfare Committee voted down two similar bills that would require ultrasounds for women seeking abortions and penalize doctors who don’t comply. The committee also rejected a measure requiring women to meet in person with their doctor prior to obtaining an abortion.

Derek Selznick is executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky’s Reproductive Freedom Project. He says the mandatory ultrasounds would be traumatic to a woman who conceived a child after being raped.

“While a doctor or somebody is actually holding a transvaginal wand inside of a woman and must explain what they’re seeing on the screen. And that, you know, for, once again, for a woman who’s been raped, that is just adding trauma to that experience,” said Selznick.

Michael Janocik with the Kentucky Right-to-Life Association says one measure contains language permitting exemptions in case of a medical emergency, though rape is not explicitly listed as one of them.

A Kentucky Senate committee has passed a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo a mandatory ultrasound procedure.

Senate Bill 8 is the latest anti-abortion measure to clear the panel.

Lawmakers heard testimony from Derrick Selznick, who is director of the ACLU of Kentucky’s Reproductive Freedom Project. Selznick opposes the bill on the grounds that it’s demeaning to women.

“So for the majority of women that this will effect in Kentucky, there will have to have [sic] a vaginal ultrasound," Selznick said. "And the courts have ruled that the only way a woman can dissent, even though it is written into the law that they can avert their eyes, the only way she can can fulfill that is to wear blinders and noise cancelling headphones. And if that isn’t degrading, I don’t know what is.”

Bill sponsor Whitney Westerfield says the measure is designed to protect innocent life.

Another anti-abortion bill, Senate Bill 3, passed in that chamber last week.