April 13 (Reuters) – Kentucky effectively suspended access to legal abortion on Wednesday when the legislature enacted a sweeping anti-abortion law that takes effect immediately and requires providers to stop offering abortions until they can meet certain requirements.

The law’s impact makes Kentucky the first US state without access to legal abortion since the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade established the right to terminate a pregnancy before the fetus is viable, abortion providers say.

Abortion rights groups have said they will challenge the bill in court.

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The law imposes requirements that clinics in the state say make their operation too difficult and logistically expensive, including a provision requiring fetal remains to be cremated or buried.

It requires that a combined birth-death or stillbirth certificate be issued for each abortion, and prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, vetoed the bill on Friday, but the Republican-majority House and Senate overrode his veto Wednesday night.

In his veto letter, Beshear expressed concern that the bill did not include exceptions for abortions in cases of rape or incest, saying it was “likely unconstitutional” because of the requirements it placed on providers.

“Rape and incest are violent crimes. Victims of these crimes should have options,” Beshear wrote.

The legislature overrode several other Beshear vetoes on Wednesday, including a bill that bars trans girls from playing girls’ sports.

Two provisions of the abortion law prevent the state’s abortion clinics from operating, according to Planned Parenthood Kentucky State Director Tamarra Wieder.

The first is a requirement that the state Board of Pharmacy certify providers who dispense abortion pills. Until abortion providers are certified, they are prevented from offering medical abortions.

The second is a requirement that fetal remains be cremated or buried, which imposes logistical and cost burdens on clinics that cannot sustain.

The bill also bans telehealth for medical abortions, requiring an in-person medical visit for patients seeking to terminate their pregnancy with pills.

Republican-led states have been rushing through increasingly strict abortion bans this year in anticipation that an impending decision by the US Supreme Court could help the bans withstand legal challenges. On Tuesday, the governor of Oklahoma signed a near-total ban on abortion that will go into effect in August.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in late June on a case involving a Republican-backed Mississippi law that gives its conservative majority a chance to undermine or even strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade in 1973 that legalized abortion throughout the country.

During arguments in the case, the conservative justices signaled their willingness to drastically curtail abortion rights in the United States.

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Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Edited by Aurora Ellis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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