Kentucky may enforce its law requiring abortionists have transfer agreements with local hospitals for patient emergencies after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state Friday.
Abortion groups in Kentucky are challenging the life-saving 1998 law, claiming it imposes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion. Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center have argued that they may have to close because they cannot meet the safety requirement, thus preventing women in Kentucky from getting abortions.
According to Reason, the Sixth Circuit panel disagreed with the abortion groups’ argument and reversed a lower court ruling blocking the state from enforcing the law.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron celebrated the ruling in a statement.
“The Sixth Circuit’s ruling keeps in place an important Kentucky law for protecting the health and safety of patients by finding that Planned Parenthood and EMW failed to prove that they could not comply with the statute and regulation,” Cameron said.
In the majority opinion, Judge Joan Larsen said the abortion facilities did not prove that they would be forced to close, The Hill reports. She pointed to a 90-day waiver in the law that allows abortion facilities to operate temporarily until they fulfill the safety requirement.
“[We] must presume that the Inspector General will consider waiver applications in good faith and will not act ‘simply to make it more difficult for [women] to obtain an abortion,’” Larsen wrote. “EMW and Planned Parenthood have failed to make a clear showing that both of their abortion facilities would close if [the law goes] into effect.”
Here’s more from The Hill:
EMW Women’s Surgical Center first challenged the law in 2017 after a licensing fight with then-Gov. Matt Bevin (R). EMW was the only clinic that provided abortions at the time, and Bevin claimed that it lacked proper transfer agreements and took steps to shut it down.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky joined the suit later on, claiming that Bevin had used these transfer agreements to block its request for a license to provide abortions. After Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear took office in 2019, the two clinics were allowed to provide abortions.
Because of the ruling, Planned Parenthood and EMW, the only two abortion facilities in the state, will have to either enter agreements with local hospitals, apply for waivers or close.
State licensing laws protect women and unborn babies by requiring abortion facilities to meet basic health and safety standards. Hospital transfer agreements are important to ensure consistent, immediate care when a woman suffers from a botched abortion or another medical emergency.
Previously, state attorney Chad Meredith argued in court that the law does not create an undue burden on abortion access, it protects women, according to Spectrum News 1.
“The Sixth Circuit has already affirmed Ohio’s transfer agreement statute over a decade ago and I don’t think anything has changed since then and I think our current statue is equally as constitutional,” Meredith said. “This is about women’s safety and health.”
He also said that every woman in Kentucky lives within 150 miles of an abortion facility in another state.
“Transfer agreements are important safety measures that even the National Abortion Federation recommends. All facilities in Kentucky that exist to perform out patient surgeries have to have these safety protections, and it doesn’t make sense to eliminate one category of health care facility just because it provides one certain type of service,” he continued, WDRB reports.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union, which is involved in the lawsuit, argued that the safety regulations are not necessary. It claimed abortions, which kill unborn babies, are “one of the safest medical procedures,” and the hospital transfer agreement is just a “politically motivated” law to stop abortions.
“It must be stated that we are in a dangerous moment for abortion rights and what this moment calls for is leadership to put all people before politics and do what’s necessary to ensure every person has access to the care they need and deserve,” said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, in a statement.
Planned Parenthood has been challenging Kentucky licensing laws in court for years. In 2016, pro-life Gov. Matt Bevin shut down a new Planned Parenthood facility in Louisville for operating without a license. State health officials said the abortion chain illegally aborted 23 unborn babies without a license before they shut it down.
The situation turned into a legal battle with the pro-life Republican governor. When pro-abortion Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear took office in 2019, however, he allowed Planned Parenthood to start aborting unborn babies again.
In 2016, state health officials also shut down a second EMW abortion facility in Lexington after they caught it masquerading as a doctor’s office and performing abortions without a license. State health investigators also found unsanitary conditions inside the facility, according to the Courier Journal. The state had to go through a legal battle before it could close the facility.