13:21, May 02 336 0 abajournal.com

2017-05-02 13:21:04
Kentucky’s last abortion clinic wages legal battle to stay open

The last abortion clinic in Kentucky is fighting to stay open with a lawsuit that challenges enforcement of state laws requiring transfer agreements with hospitals and ambulance services.

The suit (PDF) by the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville claims the government has violated its constitutional rights through “hyper-technical and arbitrary enforcement” of the requirements. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the clinic along with local lawyers.

The New York Times covers the suit and the political climate in Kentucky, where Republican Governor Matt Bevin has succeeded in closing an EMW satellite clinic in Lexington and blocked a new Planned Parenthood clinic from performing abortions. Bevin was elected in 2015.

At issue in the Louisville case are requirements that require a written agreement with an acute-care hospital capable of treating abortion patients with complications, and with an ambulance provider that transfers the patients.

The Louisville clinic has had a hospital agreement on file that has passed muster with the state since 2014, and a nearly similar ambulance agreement that has been approved for more than eight years, the suit says. Objections were raised “out of the blue” in March, according to the suit.

The chair of the obstetrics department at the University of Louisville Hospital has signed the agreement, according to the suit. But a part-owner of the hospital, a Catholic health organization, won’t sign because of religious objections to abortion, a lawyer for E.M.W. told the Times.

The suit claims the regulations impose a substantial obstacle on women seeking abortions and violates due process rights. The suit also claims the clinic was targeted based on a previous suit challenging another abortion regulation in violation of the First Amendment.

The Planned Parenthood clinic had stopped offering abortions after the state claimed in a suit that it was performing abortions illegally. A judge tossed the case, but it is on appeal. EMW’s satellite clinic closed amid a legal battle over whether it was a physician’s office that did not require a license.

Kentucky is among seven states with just one abortion clinic, according to the Times. “Across the country,” the article states, “the number of abortion providers has been steadily dropping for decades, partly because of better access to birth control—which means fewer unplanned pregnancies, and thus fewer abortions—but also because of restrictions that make it difficult for clinics to stay open.”