You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Kentucky abortion: State told to act on Planned Parenthood license

Louisville Courier-Journal logo Louisville Courier-Journal 6/27/2019 Deborah Yetter
© Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

A federal judge has ordered the state to expedite its review of a license Planned Parenthood is seeking to provide abortions at its Louisville clinic and report back to him no later than Aug.19 with a decision.

The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers follows a long-running battle between the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican, and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky over the license it has been seeking since 2015.

In a hearing Tuesday, Stivers suggested he had become impatient with delays as well as the state's arguments that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services might need more time to inspect the clinic and reach a decision.

Check out: Kentucky's controversial abortion 'reversal' law takes effect Thursday

"You better move this one up to the front of the line," Stivers told Chad Meredith, a lawyer for Bevin.

"Yes, sir. I understand," Meredith said, according to a transcript of the telephonic conference the Courier Journal obtained.

"It can be done," Stivers said. "There's no question it can be done."

Added Stivers: "I can't understand why the secretary of that cabinet could not, could not get this license, this updated license, processed within 45 days."

Meredith responded that the cabinet "will absolutely move heaven and earth" to get the license application processed within that time.

That does not guarantee a favorable decision from the state.

Stivers said that if the state finds grounds to deny the license, "I want to know as soon as possible."

If Planned Parenthood were to get a state license, it would become the state's second abortion provider, joining EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, currently the only abortion clinic in Kentucky.

Support local journalism a drawing of a face © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

Support stories like this one by becoming a subscriber today! Get unlimited digital access here!

EMW provides about 3,300 abortions a year, according to date it provides to the state Vital Statistic Branch. Overall, the nation's abortion rate has fallen in recent years, dropping 26% between 2006 and 2015 among women aged 15 to 44 years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan health policy group.

The Bevin administration initially denied Planned Parenthood's application for a license to provide abortions at a clinic it opened in 2015, saying it lacked adequate "transfer and transport" agreements with a local hospital and ambulance service in the event of an emergency.

It also sought to revoke EMW's license to provide abortions, claiming its transfer and transport agreement were "deficient." Had the Bevin administration succeeded, it would have made Kentucky the only state without a single abortion provider.

EMW and Planned Parenthood challenged the state law requiring such agreements in federal court and last year, Stivers struck down the law as an unconstitutional barrier to abortion services.

"The evidence presented here establishes clearly that scant medical benefits from transfer and transport agreements are far outweighed by the burden on Kentucky women seeking abortions," Stivers' opinion said.

The state has appealed the decision, arguing the agreements are necessary for the health and safety of patients.

10 new Kentucky laws explained: Students loans, employee pregnancy and Kinship Care

Meanwhile, lawyers for Planned Parenthood and EMW have filed a motion asking that the state be forced to pay its legal expenses of nearly $1.5 million to challenge the law.

Stivers held Tuesday's hearing after Planned Parenthood went to court asking Stivers to hold officials with the Bevin administration in contempt of court for what it says is deliberate obstruction of its efforts to obtain the state license.

"Governor Bevin is an outspoken opponent of abortion who promised during his gubernatorial campaign to rid Kentucky of the 'scourge' of abortion," Planned Parenthood's motion said.

While Stivers did not hold the Bevin administration in contempt of court, he noted that some of the state's actions in the case "could be called contempts," finding that the state had violated some of his previous orders involving the Planned Parenthood license.

Meredith disputed that, saying "We definitely disagree with that."

Planned Parenthood, in its court filing, said the denial of its license is part of an administration agenda against abortion rights evidenced by two new bills the governor signed into law earlier this year that would restrict or eliminate the procedure in Kentucky.

Both have been temporarily blocked by U.S. District Judge David Hale after they were challenged as unconstitutional by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Given other recent developments in the commonwealth, there can be no doubt the defendants are attempting to eliminate access to abortion in Kentucky and will do everything possible to avoid granting Planned Parenthood an abortion facility license," the motion said.

This story may be updated.

Deborah Yetter: 502-582-4228; dyetter@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @d_yetter.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky abortion: State told to act on Planned Parenthood license

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Louisville Courier-Journal

Louisville Courier-Journal
Louisville Courier-Journal
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon