The FAQs: Supreme Court Upholds Kentucky Abortion Law

The Gospel Coalition | 12/11/2019 | Joe Carter
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What just happened?

On Monday, the Supreme Court left in place a Kentucky law that requires abortionists to perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before they can perform abortions.

Law - Sixth - Circuit - Court - Appeals

The law had been upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the high court declined, without comment, to hear an appeal.

Why was the Supreme Court asked to review the case?

American - Civil - Liberties - Union - ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the law on behalf of Kentucky’s lone abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville. The law was initially struck down in a lower court, but earlier this year the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the law. The majority opinion said the law doesn’t violate a doctor’s First Amendment rights, and that ultrasounds provide “relevant information” related to the abortion.

What does the Kentucky law require?

January - Kentucky - Law - Requirement - Abortion

In January 2017, Kentucky implemented a law making it a requirement that prior to an abortion a physician or qualified technician must perform and explain both an obstetric ultrasound and ascultation of fetal heartbeat (i.e., an examination by listening for sounds made by internal organs of the fetus).

As part of this informed consent process, the woman must be provided with a simultaneous explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting, which shall include the presence and location of the unborn child within the uterus and the number of unborn children depicted. Along with the ultrasound images, the woman must be allowed to hear the heartbeat if the heartbeat is audible.

Kentucky - Law

Is the Kentucky law constitutional?

Federal appeals courts are divided over whether “display and describe” laws like Kentucky’s are constitutional. But the Supreme Court has previously ruled that informed consent laws applicable to abortion can be constitutional.

1980s - Pennsylvania - Legislature - Provisions - Laws

In the late 1980s, the Pennsylvania legislature added several provisions to their laws regulating abortions, including requiring informed consent. That law...
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