Kentucky woman suing for abortion learned her embryo has no cardiac activity

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A pregnant woman in Kentucky who filed a lawsuit demanding the right to an abortion discovered her embryo no longer has any cardiac activity, her attorneys said Monday. 

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood who were representing plaintiff Jane Doe said they couldn’t comment on what impact the development will have on the lawsuit. 

The groups said they were seeking additional plaintiffs who wanted to join in the suit. 

“Jane Doe sought an abortion in Kentucky, and when she could not get one, she bravely came forward to challenge the state’s abortion ban. Although she decided to have an abortion, the government denied her the freedom to control her body,” ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project deputy director Brigitte Amiri said in a statement Tuesday. 

The suit, filed last week, is seeking class-action status on behalf of Jane Doe and all Kentuckians who are pregnant or may become pregnant and can’t legally access abortions because of the state’s laws.

Kentucky has two overlapping abortion bans, rendering the procedure illegal in almost every circumstance.

The state’s “trigger” law banning all abortion was passed in 2019 and took effect last year when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It bans all abortions except when they’re carried out to save the life of the patient. It does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest or severe fetal anomalies.

The state also has a six-week “heartbeat” law in effect, which bans abortion after detection of fetal cardiac activity. The six-week ban also contains no exceptions for rape or incest, only for saving the life of the pregnant patient.

Amiri said lawsuits from patients are the best path forward to challenging the bans. The Kentucky Supreme Court in February said the state’s two abortion clinics did not have standing to challenge the ban on behalf of their patients.

“Kentuckians like Jane should be able to focus solely on their health and should not have to worry about bringing a lawsuit,” Amiri said. “Unfortunately, patient-led challenges like Jane’s are our only path forward to strike down the bans under the right to privacy and right to self-determination.”

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