Opponents Condemn Kentucky Constitution Amendment on Abortion

In tears, a young woman described how, after recently losing a much-desired pregnancy, her pharmacy hesitated to fill a prescription for a drug prescribed by her doctor to ensure the early miscarriage was complete.

“They want you to prove it’s not for abortion,” the pharmacist said, according to the woman who only provided her first name, Meredith, to protect her privacy and also, because she’s worried about possible online attacks.

Dr. Caitlin Thomas, a Louisville obstetrician and gynecologist, said her patients fear what might happen if they become pregnant under Kentucky’s tough new abortion laws. Some refuse a pregnancy test in his office so as not to leave a trace.

“I know patients who are afraid to tell me when their last period was,” said Thomas, of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a national group of physicians that supports access to abortion.

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And Kate Miller, advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the prospect of state surveillance of pregnant women to enforce Kentucky’s abortion restrictions “terrifying.”

“Who is the best person to make a decision about your pregnancy – you or the state? Miller asked.

The comments came at a public forum on Friday in Louisville seeking to rally support against a constitutional amendment in the November 8 ballot that, if approved by voters, would eliminate the right to abortion from the Kentucky Constitution. The event was hosted by State Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, Protect Kentucky Accessa group formed to fight the amendment, and the Louisville chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.

The proposed amendment, approved last year by the Republican-controlled Kentucky General Assembly, consists of a single line: “To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed as guaranteeing or protecting the right to abortion or requiring the financing of abortion”. To take effect, a majority of voters must approve it.

And a major battle over the amendment is brewing, with on both sides calling it extremely important in deciding the future of abortion — which is currently banned by state law after the U.S. Supreme Court June 24 overturned the Roe v. Wade in 1973, which for 49 years made abortion a federal right.

“We have to show up on November 8 to vote against it,” Kulkarni said, adding that if the amendment passes, it will end legal challenges to restrictive state abortion laws.

But a group called Yes for life whose members include Kentucky Right to Life, the Kentucky Catholic Conference and the Kentucky Baptist Convention, say they plan to fight just as hard to ensure the amendment passes in order to derail a ongoing legal challenge to Kentucky’s abortion laws and block future challenges.

The goal is “to make sure that you don’t have radical judges who rule the roost from the bench,” said Addia Wuchner, executive director of Right to Life and chair of the Yes for Life campaign.

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On June 30, Jefferson Circuit Judge Mitch Perry temporarily blocked Kentucky’s abortion ban that took effect after Roe v. Wade, but it was reinstated by a Court of Appeal judge while the legal challenge is pending.

But the surprise rejection of a similar amendment in Kansas last month gave hope to opponents.

“I’m very confident that we’re going to win in November,” said Tamarra Wieder, state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, one of the forum speakers.

Wuchner said the amendment itself does not ban abortion and that his group’s goal is to inform the public of what it is actually doing, which is to eliminate abortion. abortion as a constitutional right of the state.

“There is a lot of misinformation about what the constitutional amendment means,” she said. “We make sure people are told the truth.”

But speakers at Friday’s forum said the amendment would have far-reaching consequences and remove options for legal challenges to several laws restricting or prohibiting abortion that the Legislature has enacted since 2017 after Republicans consolidated their grip on the House and Senate.

State Representative Nima Kulkarni moderated a discussion on Kentucky's Constitutional Amendment 2 at a forum held in Story Louisville on Friday, September 9, 2022

Wieder said Planned Parenthood is concerned the laws could discourage more doctors from coming to Kentucky, a state with no OB-GYNs in 73 of 120 counties and above-average maternal and infant mortality rates.

Meanwhile, healthcare providers and patients alike are confused and scared of breaking the multiple penalties and restrictions in the laws that have begun to come into effect since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Wieder said.

“We heard so many of these stories at Planned Parenthood,” she said.

Meredith said her pharmacy was hesitant to fill her prescription for misoprostol, a drug to treat women who have had a miscarriage because, when used in combination with a second drug, mifepristone, it can be used to interrupt a pregnancy. Commonly called a medical abortionthe procedure is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.

And House Bill 3, the “omnibus” abortion bill the Legislature enacted this year, heavily regulates these drugs and imposes potential fines and other penalties on pharmacists and doctors who break the law.

When the pharmacist questioned her need for the medication, Meredith said she “burst into tears” and replied “I don’t know how to prove I’m having a miscarriage.”

The pharmacy eventually agreed to fill the prescription, Meredith said.

But the ordeal upset her and worried that more women would face such barriers to care, she said.

“To be questioned at this most vulnerable time of my life,” Meredith said. “It was just a unique kind of cruelty that no one should have to go through.”

Meredith said the complex laws “create a culture of fear”, adding “It’s fear for people who are pregnant, wanting to get pregnant, or accidentally getting pregnant.”

Contact journalist Deborah Yetter at [email protected] or find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.

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