Kentucky judge dismisses Jewish mothers' lawsuit challenging state abortion ban


A Kentucky judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Jewish mothers who argued that the state’s nearly total abortion ban violates the religious freedom of those who believe life begins at birth, not conception.

On Friday evening, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Brian Edwards ruled that the women’s group did not have the standing to bring the case and sided with the state attorney general, who defended the state’s abortion law.

Abortion is prohibited in Kentucky under nearly all circumstances, except when the pregnant woman is at risk of death or permanent injury.

The plaintiffs — Lisa Sobel, Jessica Kalb and Sarah Baron — filed the suit in 2022 on the grounds that the state’s ban not only threatened their health but also conflicted with their Jewish faith.

The lawsuit primarily centered around in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and whether it would be illegal for women in Kentucky to destroy embryos created through IVF that had not yet been implanted.

Both Sobel and Kalb are mothers who conceived using IVF. Kalb had nine embryos in storage, but she didn't plan to have nine more children. Meanwhile, Barron, who was 37 when she filed the suit, said the state's ban discouraged her from having more children and risking pregnancy complications.

Kentucky's attorney general's office argued that it's clear that IVF treatments and the destruction of embryos at private clinics are acceptable under state law. But state lawmakers have yet to pass any clear protections.

Judge Edwards said in the ruling that the three women's “alleged injuries … are fictitious, as none of them are currently pregnant or undergoing IVF.”

On Saturday, lawyers for the plaintiffs said the decision was putting them and IVF patients at risk.

“Our country has been waiting for a judiciary that is courageous enough to act according to the law's requirements. Our clients demand that we continue the fight, and we look forward to review by higher courts,” Aaron Kemper and Ben Potash wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Russell Coleman applauded the ruling and praised the court for upholding Kentucky's laws.

“Most importantly, the Court has put an end to any notion that access to IVF services in our Commonwealth is under threat. Today's opinion is a welcome reassurance for the many Kentuckians seeking to become parents,” Coleman wrote in a statement.

Since the state’s near-total ban on abortion went into effect, many Kentucky women have been forced to travel out of state to terminate failed pregnancies.

Speaking in May, Sobel said Kentucky women should not have to travel out of state to receive medical care consistent with their religious beliefs.

“I shouldn't have to go raise my family. I shouldn't have to go because legislators don't want to acknowledge that my religion even matters,” Sobel told NPR member station LPM.

Kentucky isn't the only state where abortion restrictions are being challenged based on religious arguments. Similar lawsuits are ongoing in Indiana, Missouri and Florida.

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