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Pregnant woman in lawsuit challenging Kentucky’s abortion bans learns her embryo has no ‘cardiac activity,’ attorneys say

By Sarah Dewberry, Alaa Elassar, Carma Hassan and Jennifer Henderson, CNN

(CNN) — A pregnant Kentucky woman involved in a class action lawsuit challenging the state’s two abortion bans has learned her embryo no longer has cardiac activity, her attorneys said.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court last week, which challenges the state’s trigger law and six-week abortion ban because “the government has denied her access to the care she needs,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a news release.

It marks the first time a pregnant woman in Kentucky has filed a lawsuit of this kind, ACLU of Kentucky spokesperson Angela Cooper told CNN.

Jane Doe’s attorneys from the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project declined to say whether she will continue her legal fight after receiving the news about the lack of cardiac activity in the embryo.

“All we can say at this time is that Jane Doe sought an abortion in the Commonwealth and couldn’t get one because of Kentucky’s abortion ban – that hasn’t changed,” an ACLU spokesperson told CNN.

The lawsuit, filed by Jane Doe and Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana and Kentucky, was filed one day after a Texas judge ruled Kate Cox, a woman who is 20 weeks pregnant, could obtain an emergency abortion. But that decision was overturned Monday by the Texas Supreme Court – even as Cox was traveling out of the state to pursue the procedure.

Cox’s legal battle is believed to be one of the first attempts in the country by an individual seeking a court-ordered abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, according to the New York Times. The case has become the intense focus of the ongoing debate over Texas’ medical exception to its controversial ban on abortions after six weeks – one of the strictest in the nation.

In Kentucky, the trigger law, which was passed in 2019 and went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, banned most abortions at any pregnancy stage, making them a felony offense, with very limited exceptions when necessary to prevent serious injury or save a patient’s life.

The near-total bans in both states outlaw abortion in most instances with no exceptions for rape or incest, making Kentucky and Texas two of 13 states banning or severely restricting abortion.

Jane Doe’s suit names Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and other state officials as defendants. A spokesperson from the office of Kentucky’s Republican attorney general told CNN they are “reviewing the complaint.”

“I am a proud Kentuckian and I love the life and family I have built here. But I am angry that now that I am pregnant and do not want to be, the government is interfering in my private matters and blocking me from having an abortion,” the woman said in a statement provided by the ACLU.

“This is my decision – not the government’s or any other person’s,” she added. “I am bringing this lawsuit because I firmly believe that everyone should have the ability to make their own decisions about their pregnancies. I hope this case will restore abortion access in Kentucky, if not for me, then for the countless people in the future who deserve the autonomy to decide what is best for themselves and their families.”

Lawsuit covers all pregnant Kentuckians seeking abortion

Jane Doe filed the class action suit to include all pregnant women in Kentucky who may also want an abortion because they “are suffering medical, constitutional, and irreparable harm because they are denied the ability to obtain an abortion,” according to the court complaint.

“Jane Doe should have the power to make decisions about her body, and to access essential health care in her community, but Kentucky politicians have denied her that fundamental right,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, in the news release. “Kentucky’s abortion bans violate the Kentucky Constitution, including its promise of protecting everyone’s right to privacy, which encompasses the right to access abortion.”

“These bans have harmed countless Kentuckians since going into effect last year, and we are relieved to be back in court to try to restore abortion access in Kentucky,” Amiri added.

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, said in a Friday news conference, “Access to reproductive health care has been denied for far too long.”

“We know people in Kentucky agree with us because, in 2022, Kentuckians voiced their opinion by voting down the constitutional amendment that would have amended the state constitution to explicitly say that it does not protect the right to an abortion,” Gibron said.

In June 2022, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood were granted a restraining order and temporary injunction after they argued the state’s trigger law and six-week abortion ban violated pregnant Kentuckians’ constitutional rights to “privacy, bodily autonomy, and self-determination,” the ACLU said in an earlier news release.

The injunction was dissolved in February by the state’s Supreme Court, which ruled the circuit court wrongfully stopped the enforcement of two state abortion laws.

This year, health care providers and abortion activists have continued to file legal challenges to stop bans in several states from being enforced – and with abortion banned in more than a dozen states and restricted in many others, it has become about twice as common for people in the United States to travel across state lines for their abortion care.

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