Last abortion clinic in Kentucky fighting to keep doors open

Women in Kentucky may lose their constitutional right to get a legal abortion unless a federal judge steps in to stop the closing of the state's last remaining abortion clinic.
By Adam Widmer | Sep 08, 2017
Women in Kentucky may lose their constitutional right to get a legal abortion unless a federal judge steps in to stop the closing of the state's last remaining abortion clinic.

The case, brought by EMW Women's Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, alleges that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican who describes himself as "unapologetically pro-life," has promised "to get rid of abortion" and is threatening to shut down the surgical center based on new rules the state claims are essential for women's health and safety, but in reality are designed to deny them access to legal abortion, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

The specific legal question at stake is whether the Bevin administration's requirement that clinics have "transfer agreements," with a hospital and ambulance service in case of emergencies is medically necessary or amounts to an unconstitutional bar to a woman's right to an abortion.

EMW's first witness Wednesday was Dr. Paula J. Hillard, a Stanford University professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who testified that abortion is generally a very safe medical procedure and that the risks of dying in childbirth are up to 14 times higher than from having an abortion.

Over recent years, conservative legislatures across the United States have made it more and more difficult for abortion providers to keep their doors open. Six states besides Kentucky have only one abortion clinic left: Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

"It's emblematic of what is happening across the country in states where politicians have passed law after law that has chipped away at the right to access abortion," said Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, who also represents EMW in its challenge to the state of Kentucky, in the Times report.

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