Kentucky’s Top Lawyer Wants Threat to Abortion Rights Ended

April 3, 2019, 6:12 PM

A ruling prohibiting Kentucky from enforcing a law requiring abortion clinics to have emergency care agreements with hospitals and ambulance companies must be upheld, the state’s top lawyer says.

Gov. Matthew G. Bevin (R) and his administration are misusing the law and regulations interpreting it with the intent of depriving women of their constitutional right to access abortion, Kentucky Attorney General Andrew G. Beshear (D) told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit April 3.

The attorney general is sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and to defend Kentucky laws so long as they pass constitutional muster, Beshear said in a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the abortion providers who challenged the administration’s actions. Though the law itself may be constitutional, the way the administration is enforcing isn’t, he said.

The law requires abortion providers to have written agreements with hospitals and ambulance providers to ensure women who experience complications from abortions receive timely transportation to and emergency treatment at nearby hospitals.

Its requirements appear to have been “merely an item on the checklist” for licensing abortion providers for nearly 20 years, trial judge Greg N. Stivers said in his decision blocking the law’s enforcement.

But Bevin and Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health & Family Services began demanding strict compliance in 2017. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc. was forced to close its facility, and EMW Women’s Surgical Center PSC, the state’s only operating abortion clinic, is threatened.

Beshear called out the Bevin administration for taking actions designed to end abortion access in the state, such as pushing for non-scientifically based emergency regulations that make compliance more difficult for abortion providers and threatening to cut off state funding for hospitals that participate in transfer agreements. This “reflects an unlawful effort to deprive women of their constitutional rights,” he said.

Bevin and the cabinet are urging the Sixth Circuit to overrule Stivers’s decision. The emergency transfer and transport requirement is a law that applies generally to all ambulatory surgical centers. Exempting abortions providers from its scope or easing regulations regarding its enforcement would give them special treatment, the cabinet and Bevin said.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is representing Beshear.

Planned Parenthood receives funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.

The case is EMW Women’s Surgical Ctr. PSC v. Meier, 6th Cir., No. 18-6161, amicus brief filed 4/3/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at mpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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