By Nate Raymond and Gabriella Borter
(Reuters) -A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked Kentucky officials from enforcing a sweeping new abortion law that Planned Parenthood said would force abortion clinics to stop offering the procedure until they can meet certain requirements.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings in Louisville issued a temporary restraining order https://tmsnrt.rs/3OrRFTg at Planned Parenthood’s request a week after the Republican-led legislature overrode a veto by the state’s Democratic governor to enact the law.
The measure, HB 3, made Kentucky the first U.S. state without legal abortion access since the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade established the right to end a pregnancy before the fetus is viable nationwide, abortion providers say.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed separate lawsuits challenging the law, which calls for a combination birth-death or stillbirth certificate to be issued for each abortion and bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Jennings, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said because the law went into effect immediately, there was not enough time for related regulations governing abortion to be written that clinics must comply with.
Those clinics included a Planned Parenthood affiliate, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, that runs one of Kentucky’s two remaining abortion clinics.
“Because plaintiff cannot comply with HB 3 and thus cannot legally perform abortion services, its patients face a substantial obstacle to exercising their rights to a pre-viability abortion,” she wrote.
Jennings said she was not at this stage considering the constitutionality of the law’s requirements and would consider at a hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction whether any parts could be complied with.
“This is a win, but it is only the first step,” Rebecca Gibron, the Planned Parenthood affiliate’s chief executive, said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, did not respond to a request for comment.
Republican-led states this year have been rapidly passing anti-abortion legislation in anticipation that the U.S. Supreme Court will back a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi this spring.
The U.S. Supreme Court now has a 6-3 conservative majority and appeared open to rolling back or overturning Roe v. Wade during case arguments in December.
While only in effect for eight days, abortion rights advocates say the Kentucky law caused significant disruptions for women seeking abortions.
The Kentucky Health Justice Network, which provides financial assistance to patients seeking abortions, facilitated patients’ travel to Indiana and Ohio to terminate pregnancies in the last week, said operations director Ashley Jacobs.
“I am kind of shocked,” she said of the ruling. “It wasn’t expected that this judge would be friendly to the injunction.”
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Leslie Adler, Bernard Orr)