NPR, September 6, 2017
Sarah McCammon


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Kentucky is down to only one clinic that performs abortions: the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville. A trial kicking off Wednesday morning in federal court in Louisville will decide whether Kentucky will become the only state without a single such clinic.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin tried to shut down the EMW center earlier this year after his administration told the clinic that it was failing to meet state health regulations requiring clinics that provide abortions to have transfer agreements with local hospitals and ambulance services in case of medical emergencies.

Bevin's administration notified the clinic in March that its agreement had been deemed insufficient. In response, lawyers for the EMW center filed a federal lawsuitclaiming the administration's complaint had come "out of the blue." The clinic at one point came within days of closing, but the administration and clinic later reached an agreement allowing it to stay open while litigation is underway.

The center has been the site of several recent protests by anti-abortion-rights groups seeing the potential for both a real and symbolic victory for their cause.

"The stakes are very high in our challenge to restrictions in Kentucky that would close the last abortion facility in that state," said Brigitte Amiri, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the women's clinic.

Amiri argues the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstadt, which struck down a Texas law requiring surgical-grade facilities at clinics that provide abortions and abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges, is relevant in Kentucky as well.

Amiri said the state law requiring hospital transfer agreements would amount, in effect, to a ban on abortion in Kentucky.

"So when weighing the benefits of the law against the burdens — which the Supreme Court requires states to do — it's very clear that what Kentucky is doing is blatantly unconstitutional," Amiri said. [...]

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