Kentucky Governor Can Shut Down Illegal Abortion Clinic, Appeals Court Says

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jun 16, 2016   |   9:40AM   |   Frankfort, KY

A Kentucky court ruled that a Lexington abortion facility can be shut down this week after state officials said it was doing abortions illegally.

This spring, Kentucky pro-life Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration filed a lawsuit accusing the EMW Women’s Clinic in Lexington of being an abortion clinic masquerading as a doctor’s office. Bevin’s administration said the abortion practice should be closed because it is unlicensed and investigators found unsanitary conditions inside the facility, according to the Courier Journal.

In March, a circuit judge denied the state’s request to close the facility; but the Wednesday appeals court ruling, made by an all-female panel of judges, reversed the decision in favor of the state, The Herald Leader reports.

Here is more from the local newspaper:

The appellate court said EMW Women’s Clinic on Burt Road is “temporarily enjoined from operating an abortion facility” until it receives a license from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services or until a final judgment is rendered in the case.

The appellate court in its unanimous decision said it agreed with Gov. Matt Bevin’s argument “that the circuit court’s findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous.”

“As the cabinet points out, this case is not about a woman’s right to an abortion,” the court said in its 24-page order. “The cabinet is not seeking to prevent women from obtaining abortions. It is seeking, however, to enforce its right to regulate the manner in which abortions are performed in this commonwealth.”

At issue is whether the clinic may operate as an unlicensed doctor’s office that performs abortions, as it has for many years, or whether it is a full abortion clinic that requires state licensing.

Bevin celebrated the court ruling in a statement: “Today marks an important victory for the rule of law in Kentucky. We are pleased by the Court’s recognition that an unlicensed abortion clinic is prohibited from performing abortions.”

An attorney for EMW, Scott White told Reuters they plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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According to the state’s lawsuit, the Lexington abortion clinic tried to pass itself off as a physician’s office, but state investigators discovered that it was only doing abortions and abortion-related procedures. Kentucky requires that abortion clinics obtain special licenses from the state, and EMW did not. According to state abortion statistics, the Lexington clinic performed 411 abortions on unborn babies in 2015.

EMW owner Ernest Marshall even admitted to a judge in March that the clinic primarily does abortions, though it used to do more gynecological work, the Herald Leader reports.

State investigators also said they found numerous health and safety violations at the abortion clinic, including a “significant quantity” of expired medication, medical equipment covered in dust, dirt and grime; and improper sanitation. It also did not have emergency agreements with a local hospital and ambulance service, as required by law, according to the state’s lawsuit.

In February, the state also sued a new Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Louisville after catching it doing abortions without a license, LifeNews reported. Planned Parenthood’s lawyer contends that former pro-abortion Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration gave the abortion facility the OK to do abortions without a license, and wants the lawsuit to be dismissed.

After announcing the first lawsuit filed against the Planned Parenthood facility, Gov. Bevin called out the abortion business for “callous and knowing violations of 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,” Bevin said. “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.”