FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against a Planned Parenthood affiliate for performing abortions without a license.
“[T]he [Cabinet for Health and Family Services] has plead facts which suggest Planned Parenthood did everything it could to begin performing abortions as soon as possible,” the court wrote on Friday. “While the Cabinet may have a difficult time proving its allegations, we believe said allegations are sufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
As previously reported, in February 2016, Gov. Matt Bevin’s office announced that the Cabinet had filed a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. (PPINK) after finding that the then-newly opened Louisville location performed 23 unlicensed abortions between December and January.
Planned Parenthood has admitted that the abortions were indeed performed unlicensed, but said that the previous governor’s administration had told them that they needed to have an unannounced inspection before they could obtain the license. The organization said that they concluded that in order to be inspected, the business would have to be open and operational.
“I don’t know how the Bevin administration proposes to resolve this apparent inconsistency in the law that you have to have an unannounced inspection before you can have a license,” attorney Thomas Clay told local television station WDRB.
Bevin’s administration noted that Planned Parenthood did submit an application for a license in November 2015, but also provided what it called “sham” hospital and ambulance transfer agreements. The transfer agreements are required in order to be licensed, in addition to obtaining an inspection.
This placed “patients at extreme risk to their health, safety, and lives had an emergency occurred,” Bevin’s office said.
The lawsuit also accused Beshear’s inspector general, Maryellen Mynear, of telling Planned Parenthood officials that it was permissible to operate without a license the day before she and the rest of the previous administration left office. Bevin said that there is no such allowance in the law and that Mynear had no authority to suggest otherwise.
Planned Parenthood bases its argument on Mynear’s assurance and that it had sought to comply with all applicable regulations.
On Jan. 28, 2016, the Cabinet sent a letter to Planned Parenthood advising that its application was lacking and that it must cease operations as it is illegal to perform abortions in the state without a license. It then took the PPINK to court, seeking fines of more than $500,000.
Last July, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry dismissed the suit, stating that Planned Parenthood was simply doing what it had been told.
“Based simply on a change in Cabinet personnel, it defies reason that an abortion facility which opened based on the approval of the (Office of Inspector General of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services) may be then said to have willfully violated the law by the same Cabinet,” he wrote.
However, the dismissal was appealed, and on Friday, the Kentucky Court of Appeals revived the lawsuit, remanding the case back to Perry for further deliberation.
“We applaud today’s Court of Appeals ruling allowing this important case to proceed,” Steve Pitt, attorney for Gov. Matt Bevin said in a statement. “The facts are clear and alarming: Between Dec. 3, 2015 and Jan. 28, 2016, Planned Parenthood’s Louisville facility performed 23 abortions without proper licensing or emergency safeguards in place. This disregard for both the safety of women and the rule of law is simply unacceptable, and Planned Parenthood must be held accountable.”
Planned Parenthood says that it is disappointed by the ruling and maintains that it only moved forward with the abortions after obtaining assurance that doing so was within the law.
“PPINK sought the advice of the governmental agency charged with overseeing licensure and followed its guidance,” said President Christie Gillespie. “We did nothing wrong, and we are confident the courts will agree. We are committed to providing high-quality health care for all at our Kentucky health centers, and we will continue to do so while this case is litigated.”
Bevin advised last year after the suit was filed that he personally opposes abortion, but since the law allows it, he feels he has to abide by state law and permit facilities to be licensed regardless of his belief that abortion is murder.
“Although I am an unapologetically pro-life individual, I recognize and accept that there are some laws on the books that I do not necessarily agree with,” he stated. “[M]y job is to ensure that they are followed regardless of my personal opinion.”
Bevin said that Planned Parenthood must also follow the law.
“This administration will have no tolerance for the type of brazen disregard that Planned Parenthood has shown for both the safety of women and the rule of law,” he continued. “We will hold Planned Parenthood accountable for knowingly endangering their patients by providing illegal abortions at a facility that was not properly licensed nor prepared to handle an emergency.”