Obama Judge Temporarily Blocks Kentucky From Closing State’s Last Abortion Facility

Photo Credit: Abortion Conversation Project

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A judge appointed to the bench by then-President Barack Obama has issued a temporary injunction against the enforcement of a compliance order that would result in the closure of the last abortion facility in Kentucky.

“Plaintiffs have laid out specific facts in their verified complaint showing that the rights of their patients would be immediately and irreparably harmed absent a temporary restraining [order] from this court,” wrote Judge Greg Stivers on Friday.

“The fundamental right to privacy contained in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment includes the right to choose to have an abortion, subject to certain limitations,” he asserted. “As a result of Defendant’s actions, the only clinic providing abortion services in the Commonwealth of Kentucky would be forced to cease operations in a matter of days.”

His order remains in effect for 14 days while the case proceeds in court.

As previously reported, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services sent a letter to the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville earlier this month to advise that there were technical problems with the facility’s attempts to comply with the requirements to have agreements with a local hospital and ambulance service in the event of a medical emergency.

It noted that the Center’s filed agreement with University of Louisville Hospital was “not signed by an authorized representative” and that its arrangements with Mercy Ambulance were also deficient.

In response, the Center obtained a new ambulance agreement and also tried to convince the Cabinet that its current signature from the University of Louisville Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health was sufficient.

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The Cabinet advised, however, that the state requires that the agreement be signed by the “owner of the acute care hospital, not a subordinate division.”

It also noted that the University of Louisville Hospital had recently discontinued an agreement with Planned Parenthood, meaning that it might no longer desire an agreement with the Center either. The hospital is run by Catholic Health Initiatives.

While the abortion facility was soon able to obtain a signature from the interim president, he pulled out of the agreement and “asked that the amended agreement not be sent to the cabinet.”

“What they appear to be saying is we have to go to the Catholics to get permission to do abortions,” attorney Donald Cox told NBC News. “Not a very likely scenario.”

Therefore, because the facility has not been able to comply by the Cabinet’s deadline of April 3, the Center filed suit on Wednesday with the assistance of the Kentucky American Civil Liberties Union.

Cox said he was pleased that Stivers issued the injunction as requested.

“Governor Bevin’s administration has made it clear that it won’t stop until no woman in Kentucky can get an abortion if she needs one,” he told Insider Louisville. “We will do everything we can to make sure he doesn’t get his way. Today’s court decision recognizes the devastating consequences of closing the last abortion clinic, and of robbing Kentucky women of their ability to access abortion in our state.”

But state officials said that the abortion facility wasn’t in immediate jeopardy of closing and contended that its regulations and requirements serve a vital medical interest.

“The Cabinet is surprised by the court,” Doug Hogan, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in a statement. “From a practical standpoint, the [temporary restraining order] was unnecessary, as EMW’s license was never in immediate jeopardy.”

“The Cabinet had informed counsel for EMW no final decision would be made regarding the abortion facility’s license until the administrative due process hearing required by Kentucky statutory law was complete,” he continued. “The Cabinet looks forward to defending the statutorily-required transfer agreements, enacted to protect the health and welfare of women who undergo abortions, in the state administrative proceedings and before the Court.”

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