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Court’s decision serves as a warning sign of more bad rulings on abortion access to come.

(New Haven, Conn.)— Yesterday, the Supreme Court allowed a harmful Kentucky abortion law to take effect. This law will force providers to show and describe an ultrasound to patients, even if patients don’t want to hear or see the results, and even if they are trying to turn away or cover their ears. This blow to abortion access comes only months before the court hears oral arguments in a major Louisiana abortion case—one that has the potential to render Roe v. Wade meaningless and signals a troubling road ahead for the fight to preserve safe and legal abortion access across the country. 

Signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin, the Kentucky law has no basis in medicine or science, and only serves to stigmatize and shame people for seeking an abortion. In fact, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Public Health Association, as well as more than 130 leading biomedical ethicists have condemned this law. The court’s decision also comes just one day before reproductive rights champion, Andy Beshear, is sworn in as the new governor of Kentucky. Bevin lost last month’s election by centering his campaign on an anti-abortion agenda.

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to strike down cruel and harmful restrictions on the right to abortion access runs in opposition to established medical science and to the will of the American people who overwhelmingly support upholding Roe v. Wade,” said Kafi Rouse, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE). “This Kentucky abortion law is meant to shame and humiliate people who are seeking care and further vilify and stigmatize abortion. Thanks to the Supreme Court and the Trump-Pence administration, politicians around the country now feel empowered and emboldened to limit access to essential, life-saving reproductive health care. We must continue to fight back against these constant attacks to abortion access and eliminate these dangerous barriers that prevent people from accessing the care they need and deserve.”  

“This law is cruel and serves no purpose except to shame patients for seeking health care,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF). “By allowing this harmful restriction to go into effect, the Supreme Court is giving politicians across this country a green light to not just restrict access to abortion, but to maliciously punish patients who try to access abortion. Patients deserve care and compassion, not humiliation, when they turn to a medical provider for care. With the courts chipping away at abortion access, we need politicians to step up to protect our rights and freedoms against these unconstitutional laws like never before. We will not stop fighting for the patients across the country who need care, or to protect them from cruel laws such as these. The fight to protect abortion access is happening on all fronts and we will never stop working, along with our partners, until every person can access the health care they deserve, without shame and without stigma, no matter what.”

While some politicians will stop at nothing to strip reproductive rights from Americans, support for abortion access is at its highest level on record—77% of Americans say they do not want to see Roe overturned. This year in nearly half the states, champions have pushed for bills that codify abortion rights into state law, repeal harmful policies that create barriers to care, and treat abortion as health care, not a crime.

PPSNE, as a member of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, was instrumental in passing the Reproductive Privacy Act of 2019, protecting the right to access safe, legal abortion in Rhode Island state law and creating a critical backstop if Roe is threatened. Connecticut has already protected in statute the right to abortion.

In October, the Supreme Court agreed to review Louisiana’s Act 620, an abortion restriction nearly identical to one of the Texas restrictions struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt just three years ago—potentially breaking with its own precedent, rendering Roe meaningless, and dismantling constitutional protections to abortion access. While abortion restrictions impact everyone who can become pregnant, they hit people of color and those who are struggling to make ends meet the hardest—the result of systemic barriers to health care due to our country’s racist and discriminatory policies.

With continued attacks on reproductive and sexual health at the federal level, it is more important now than ever that advocates for reproductive freedom continue to speak up and take action to safeguard access to safe, legal abortion. PPSNE won’t stop fighting to protect the human right to health care.