by Kelvey Vander Hart
On Friday, a federal judge struck down a Kentucky law that would have caused the last abortion clinic in the state to shut its doors.
The law, which had been in effect for two decades, required Kentucky abortion clinics to have written transfer agreements. These agreements would be drawn up to connect the clinic with local ambulance services and hospitals in case something went wrong during a procedure and emergency medical care was needed.
U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers ruled that the law was unconstitutional. “The court has carefully reviewed the evidence presented in this case and concludes that the record is devoid of any credible proof that the challenged regulations have any tangible benefit to women’s health,” he wrote in the ruling. “On the other hand, the regulations effectively eliminate women’s rights to abortions in the state. Therefore, the challenged regulations are unconstitutional.”
EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s last abortion clinic located in Louisville, came under threat when the administration of Governor Matt Bevin (R) determined that it did not have the proper transfer agreements drawn up. As the administration moved to shut the clinic down, the center quickly filed a lawsuit and moved the battle to the courtroom.
While state attorneys contended that this law did not place an undue burden on the clinic, Stivers argued that despite “best efforts,” the clinic was not able to get a Louisville hospital to join them in a transfer agreement, and therefore should not be held liable.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took part in the suit and were pleased with the outcome. ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri stated, “The court’s decision recognized the Kentucky law for what it is: an attack on women wrapped up in a bogus justification and pushed by politicians who’ve been transparent in their pursuit to ban abortion in the state of Kentucky.”
Bevin’s administration is planning to appeal for a reversal of the decision, and are confident they will ultimately prevail. Elizabeth Kuhn, spokeswoman for the governor, stated, “We are disappointed that the court would strike down a statute that protects the health and well-being of Kentucky women.”
Amanda Stomper, another gubernatorial spokeswoman, had earlier explained the importance of such transfer agreements:
The transfer agreements’ requirements in question — which were enacted in 1998 and not questioned for 19 years — are important measures for ensuring women have the proper life-saving procedures in place in the event of an emergency… Essentially all health-care facilities in Kentucky are required to have such agreements, and it is telling that the abortion industry believes that it alone should be exempt.
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