Sunday, September 19, 1999

Abortion allies leery of ruling

Decision may affect Ky. case

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOUISVILLE — Lawyers fighting Kentucky's 24-hour abortion waiting period hope a recent federal ruling about a similar law won't hurt their case.

        The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky is challenging the law that would require women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours and be given information about the procedure both orally and in writing. The organization says the law, which is on hold pending the outcome of the litigation, is unconstitutional because it puts an undue burden on the women.

        That claim has been rejected by several courts in other cases, most recently by the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled last month that a similar Wisconsin law did not violate the constitution.

        State Sen. Katie Stine, R-Fort Thomas, introduced the Kentucky legislation, saying she considered it empowering for women because it gives them more information. It also requires women to be given pictures depicting fetal development. Gov. Paul Patton vetoed the legislation, but lawmakers easily overrode the veto.

        Because of the legal challenges, the law has never taken effect. That lays out a more difficult challenge for the ACLU lawyers. They are unable to argue that the law is unconstitutional as it has been applied, and leaves them to argue only that it is unconstitutional purely on its face.

        “We're just hoping we can differentiate Kentucky's situation from the others,” said Laura Morris, an attorney working against the law.

        Lawyers do not yet know exactly what they're going to be able to argue, she said, but among the factors that make Kentucky different are the number of abortion providers. There are fewer in the commonwealth than in some of the other states, so it's already more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, she said.

        Doctors who would be required to give the women information also argue that their rights would be violated if they are forced to give out information with which they disagree.

        Northern Kentucky attorneys Rick Meyer and Mark Guilfoyle were hired in February to defend the law for the state after Attorney General Ben Chandler chose not to handle the case. His lawyers were busy on other cases, he said. Mr. Guilfoyle and Mr. Meyer work for Deters, Benzinger and LaVelle, the Crestview Hills law firm that also represents the Diocese of Covington.

        Folks on their side of the issue were elated by the Wisconsin decision.

        Margie Montgomery, director of Kentucky Right to Life, called the latest ruling great news and said it can only bode well for opponents of the commonwealth's law.

        A trial date has not been set.


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