Kentucky Could Become First Abortion-Free State

A federal court in Louisville is poised to decide whether Kentucky will become the first state without an abortion clinic.

The trial has concluded in a federal lawsuit brought against the state by the EMW Women’s Surgical Clinic – the only abortion provider in Kentucky – which claims the state’s regulations “impose an undue burden” upon a woman’s right to abortion.

The state requires that abortion clinics maintain a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital and a transport agreement with an ambulance service in the event of abortion-related emergencies in order to secure a license to perform the procedure.

“The state is trying to shut down the only abortion clinic in Kentucky by enforcing regulations that have nothing to do with women’s health,” said Don Cox, the attorney for EMW, reports local CBS affiliate WLKY.

He added that, if women have to travel out of state to obtain an abortion, it could pose a danger to their health.

“That end result will be that some women take the matter into their own hands, and we know where that ends,” he said during his opening arguments in court.

EMW attorneys, joined by those from Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the ACLU, are relying on the Supreme Court’s decision last year in the case of Whole Women’s Health vs. Hellerstedt. In that decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with pro-abortion advocates in striking down Texas’s HB2 statute that required abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and abortion facilities to meet the health and safety standards that are mandated for other ambulatory surgery centers.

“No court has allowed a state to shirk its constitutional responsibilities by pointing to a neighboring state,” ACLU Attorney Brigitte Amiri said after court adjourned Wednesday. “We think it’s completely improper for the state of Kentucky to rely on another state to provide care to patients when it’s the constitutional duty of this Commonwealth to ensure that abortion facilities are not shut down for medically unjustified reasons.”

Gov. Matt Bevin (R) and state officials, however, say they are trying to keep women safe.

“The governor and the secretary of the cabinet are attempting to enforce the law that requires — for the safety of women — for abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals, every state in this area has those statutes,” said Steve Pitt, attorney for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, according to WLKY.

He argued that states have the right to decide health and safety measures, even for abortions. Pitt also cited an Ohio district court decision in which a federal judge ruled that women are not unduly burdened by having to travel to another city or state to obtain an abortion, and, therefore, such travel does not infringe on their access to abortion.

As CNN reports, Cox and the other attorneys say such laws are blocking women’s access to abortion and are unnecessary since ambulances can always be called in emergency situations and abortion patients can be taken to emergency rooms in hospitals.

Bevin has sought to ensure abortion facilities follow state health and safety regulations and that women are fully informed about the procedure.

In February of 2016, the governor sued Planned Parenthood, claiming the abortion vendor performed the procedure illegally without a license at its new location in Louisville.

“This administration will have no tolerance for the type of brazen disregard that Planned Parenthood has shown for both the safety of women and the rule of law,” Bevin said in a statement. “We will hold Planned Parenthood accountable for knowingly endangering their patients by providing illegal abortions at a facility that was not properly licensed nor prepared to handle an emergency.”

Also in February of last year, Bevin signed a bill into law that strengthened the state’s informed consent law prior to an abortion. The law requires women to have a face-to-face or live video chat with a medical consultation about the procedure at least 24 hours prior to an abortion.

The governor also signed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and the Ultrasound Informed Consent Act, which requires the abortion provider to perform an ultrasound prior to the procedure and allow the mother to view it if she chooses. The law also requires the abortionist to provide a description of the baby to the mother and to offer her an opportunity to hear the baby’s heartbeat.

Troy Newman, president of pro-life organization Operation Rescue remarked on what is now common knowledge since the case of Philadelphia “house of horrors” abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was found guilty of murdering babies born alive during abortions and of the death of a patient.

Newman said:

Most states are either not motivated or completely afraid to enforce laws that affect abortion facilities. Even when we catch them in the act of breaking the law and can prove it, enforcement remains our greatest challenge. Gov. Matt Bevin has been a breath of fresh air that takes enforcement of Kentucky laws seriously.

“There are many states currently controlled by pro-life administrations that must find the courage to follow Kentucky’s lead and act swiftly to enforce state laws,” Newman added. “Those facilities that cannot comply should not expect exemption from proper enforcement.”


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