Research shows that in states where abortion access has been severely limited, some women terminate their pregnancies on their own, sometimes using extreme methods such as inserting sticks or toxic liquids into their wombs.
The potential shutdown of Kentucky’s only remaining licensed abortion facility, EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, puts Kentuckians in danger.
Earlier this month, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services sent a letter to EMW stating that its license would be revoked and the clinic shut down, effective April 3. The cabinet claims that EMW’s agreements with a local hospital and ambulance service, agreements that were reviewed and approved just last year, are no longer sufficient.
From day one, the goal of Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration and the new Republican majority in Frankfort has been to make abortion impossible to obtain in Kentucky while claiming their motivation is to protect women’s health. The primary result of abortion restrictions is to expose women to more health hazards. States where people are most likely to Google “how to have a miscarriage” and “how to self-abort” are also the states that have the strictest abortion laws.
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Bevin has said he is an “unapologetically pro-life individual.” My organization, Kentucky Health Justice Network, receives more than 25 phone calls a week from Kentuckians seeking abortion assistance. We help fund abortions, transport folks from around the state to Louisville, pay for lodging, and are working to assist with childcare expenses because 59 percent of women who have abortions are already mothers.
Bevin’s dismissiveness of the people we serve must mean he doesn’t believe all Kentuckians are worthy of protection.
When the attempted shutdown of EMW was made public on Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky announced it had challenged the imminent closure of the clinic and asked for a temporary restraining order to ensure that the clinic doesn’t close while litigation is pending.
The ACLU also represents EMW in a challenge to a state law that requires doctors to display, and narrate in detail, an ultrasound to a woman prior to providing an abortion, even if the woman objects and even if the doctor believes that it will harm the patient. A hearing in that case was held last week.
The law that Kentucky is using to attempt to shut down the clinic is very like Texas laws that the Supreme Court struck down last June in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt. In that case, the court held that requiring business arrangements with a hospital served no medical purpose and instead posed real harm to women.
In addition to endangering the lives of Kentuckians, taxpayer money will be spent to litigate a case similar to one already decided by the Supreme Court. Revoking the license of Kentucky’s only abortion clinic is not only cruel and careless, it’s bad business for a state already struggling to fund education, infrastructure, social programs and pensions.
If Bevin’s administration and our elected representatives in Frankfort truly wanted to prevent abortions, they’d work hard to make sure every Kentuckian has access to birth control and comprehensive reproductive health care. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, folks in Pike County do not have a publicly funded clinic that offers all forms of birth control. Neither do Floyd, Warren, Scott, Bullitt and many other counties.
In Fayette County there are 71,700 women aged 13-44 and 24,580 are in need of publicly funded contraceptive services and supplies. Expanding Medicaid family-planning services reduces unwanted pregnancy and abortion, improves health outcomes and produces substantial cost savings for state budgets. In 2010, public spending for unplanned pregnancies in Kentucky totaled an estimated $378 million.
Stop building barriers to abortion access and work to build a healthier Kentucky. Attempts to stop abortion by making it illegal or hard to obtain have never succeeded in ending abortion, either in the United States before Roe vs. Wade or in other countries where it is currently banned or severely restricted by law.
As the legal barriers to abortion care mount, more women may resort to inducing abortion themselves. If the state succeeds in shutting down EMW, the blood will be on the hands of Bevin’s administration.
Marcie Crim (firstname.lastname@example.org) is executive director of the Kentucky Health Justice Network.