Kentucky's last abortion provider is being threatened with closure

Mythili Sampathkumar
Pro-choice supporters rally outside the Supreme Court before the June 2016 court ruling in a case that imposed heavy restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas and was struck down EPA: EPA

Kentucky's last abortion clinic is facing closure - but a judge's order has allowed it to stay open for another 14 days.

The EMW Women's Surgical Centre in Louisville received a letter on 13 March from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in the Kentucky state government stating the clinic had ten days before losing its licence to operate. It was granted an extension until 3 April.

According to clinic's lawyers its licence for operating as an abortion facility was renewed in 2016 and valid until May of this year.

The clinic and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit to allow the clinic to stay open longer.

As per state law, the clinic needs “agreements” with a local hospital and ambulance services in case of an emergency, CNN reports.

The letter stated that the clinic’s head of obstetrics, gynaecology and women's health was “not authorised” to sign any agreement with a hospital. It also said the ambulance services agreement did not sufficiently assure that patients would be provided a transfer should they need it.

Legal documents state that the clinic’s hospital agreement has been in place since 2014 and it’s ambulance services agreement since 2009.

“The state's bureaucratic sleight of hand is fooling no one. This is an attempt to ban abortion in Kentucky, plain and simple,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney at ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project in a statement.

With the court order, Ms Amiri said, women can still access the “critical care that they need".

The clinic and ACLU are involved in another lawsuit in federal court. They oppose Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s restrictions on abortion providers that require them to perform an ultrasound, describe it to the woman, and “provide audio of the foetal heartbeat”, before the woman can decide to have an abortion, CNN reports.

The judge’s order cites that the “rights of [the clinic's] patients would be immediately and irreparably harmed“ without it.

“Throughout the country, people who are opposed to abortions are coming up with all manner of regulatory burdens that have nothing to do with the health of the women and everything to do with the politics of the moment,” EMW attorney Donald Cox told CNN.