Pro- and anti-abortion advocates are now engaged in a fierce legal battle that will decide whether Kentucky will become the first state in the nation without an abortion clinic.
Only this March, state regulators tried to shut down EMW Women’s Surgical Center over accusations that the facility does not have adequate agreements with a local hospital in place and a standby ambulance service in the event that a patient needs to be transferred.
Conservative Republican Go. Matt Bevin who is staunchly pro-life argues that the licensing requirements are crucial safeguards to protect women should there be a medical emergency.
The clinic fought back and countered with a federal lawsuit, claiming that the said requirements lack any medical justification and place an unconstitutional barrier before women who wish to have abortions.
The case went to trial on Wednesday before a U.S. district judge in Louisville, and being watched closely by both sides of the abortion debate.
Conservative statehouses all over the country have actively pushed for a series of laws and regulations that have made it more challenging for abortion providers to continue operating. Kentucky is in the league of seven states with only a lone abortion clinic left. The other states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, Wyoming and West Virginia.
The clinic’s defenders, on the other hand, view the Bevin administration’s action as part of a collective effort by anti-abortion advocates to curtail women’s access to abortion. The procedure has been legal in the U.S. since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bevin was elected governor in 2015 and since then state regulators have closed another facility administering abortion and also blocked a new Planned Parenthood healthcare center in Louisville from performing abortions. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky are also embroiled in battles with the Bevin administration regarding budget cuts for the program among others.
Amanda Stamper, spokesperson for the governor defended the administration stance on abortion. She said: “The Bevin administration is working diligently to protect the health, welfare and lives of women in Kentucky.
Stamper also clarified that the requirement for transfer agreements applies to other healthcare facilities in Kentucky and has been in place for almost two decades now. She said that it is telling that the abortion industry believes “it alone should be exempt from these important safety measures.”
Pro-abortion advocates insist also that complications from abortion are rare, but the state argues that the effects of closing the clinic would not be as drastic as the plaintiffs claim. The state lawyers said Kentucky law allows licensed hospitals to perform abortions without being separately licensed as an abortion facility. They also argued that abortions are performed at nearby facilities in neighboring states.