Kentucky’s Last Abortion Provider Stays Open Pending Lawsuit


BY KATHLEEN MURPHY – STAFF WRITER

The Kentucky state government and the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the last abortion provider in Kentucky, reached an agreement in court on the 4th, allowing the clinic to remain open as a federal lawsuit between the two parties continues. The federal lawsuit started after the state informed the clinic it would revoke its license on the 3rd of April, claiming the clinic was not in compliance with regulations on emergency medical transfer agreements with local ambulance services and hospitals. The clinic then sued the state for unconstitutionally and illegally trying to revoke its license, leaving Kentucky women without an essential, constitutionally protected medical procedure.  The clinic alleges political motivations behind the move while the state claims that its actions intend to protect the health of the women who visit the clinic. While this suit continues, the clinic will remain open for two weeks following Judge Greg N. Stivers’ signing of a temporary restraining order.

Not the first clinic facing closure, the EMW represents the third clinic under pressure as Governor Matt Bevin’s administration imposes stricter regulations on the Kentucky clinics that provider abortion. The two clinics facing such increasing strictures before EMW in Louisville, including Planned Parenthood and another EMW clinic, both in Lexington, found themselves forced to stop providing abortions or shut down. Planned Parenthood in Lexington continues to operation without providing abortions pending the state government’s appeal of a federal court decision to dismiss their suit against the clinic for providing illegal abortions. While the courts may have dismissed the suit, Planned Parenthood still has to obtain a new license from the government, a process placed in jeopardy as KentuckyOne Health refused to agree to take emergency medical transfers from the clinic, an agreement necessary to obtain a license from the state. The EMW clinic in Lexington also faced similar difficulties to the one currently open in Louisville, closing its doors after a dispute over licensing with the Bevin administration.

These developments in litigation come with legislative developments, as Governor Bevin signed two laws related to abortion at the beginning of his term. One of these laws banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in the case of a medical emergency signed off on by two doctors. This exception can also only take place in the presence of two doctors in a facility with neonatal care for premature infants and be done in a way that attempts to increase the likelihood of the fetus’ survival. The law allows the biological parents of the fetus involved to sue those who violate any of these provisions. There is no exception for victims of rape or incest. The state claims that this law protects fetuses as the legislature insists that after 20 weeks gestation, a fetus can feel pain. The second law requires pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, in which the doctor must describe the fetus aloud, display the ultrasound image so that a woman can see it and use a fetal heart rate monitor so that a woman can hear it, if possible. These actions align with Bevin’s presented pro-life stance as he has clearly indicated both before and after his election in 2015.

Concerning the current federal lawsuit against the state of Kentucky, the EMW clinic aims to remain open for Kentucky women and their families for as long as possible, yet they remain worried. They hope overall that their suit and their presence can continue to break down stereotypes of women who seek abortions as promiscuous or “floozy,” emphasizing the many complex reasons that any one woman who requests their services may have. In breaking down stereotypes, people may have a greater ability to see the nuance surrounding the issue, including the intersections with other policy problems in the state and the nation more broadly, including healthcare, contraception, poverty, foster care and mental health.

Governor Bevin’s office was not available for comment.


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