Sunday, February 04, 2001

State to pay ACLU fees

Abortion-law fight cost Ky. $299,500

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Kentucky taxpayers will pay nearly $300,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky for costs it incurred fighting an unconstitutional law against “partial-birth” abortions.

        Attorney General Ben Chandler's office filed an agreement in U.S. District Court on Friday to pay $299,500.

        The agreement means Kentucky will have paid the ACLU more than $600,000 for fighting unconstitutional abortion laws since 1984. This is the largest settlement the state ACLU has received.

        The last victory came from a 1998 bill which banned a type of abortion performed in the second trimester of a woman's pregnancy. At the time, numerous courts had struck down similar laws in other states.

        Jeff Vessels, executive director of the state ACLU, said he hopes the settlement will teach a lesson to lawmakers who insist on passing unconstitutional bills.

        The law was ruled illegal by U.S. Circuit Judge John G. Heyburn II and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because access to abortion is a constitutionally protected right. The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 last June against a Nebraska law.

        Rep. Tom Kerr, D-Taylor Mill, an abortion opponent, denied that lawmakers voted for a bill they knew was illegal.

        “We passed the best bill that we could based on the law as it was at that time. The vast majority of Kentuckians believe this procedure should be prohibited,” Mr. Kerr said.


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- State to pay ACLU fees