Politics & Government

Judge halts shutdown of last Kentucky abortion clinic

A federal judge has halted the impending shutdown of the only clinic in Kentucky that performs abortions.

U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers issued a restraining order Friday that prevents Kentucky officials from revoking the license of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville. The state has told the center it is out of compliance with state laws related to its agreements with a local hospital and ambulance service.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit this week to halt the shutdown. Two other abortion sites in Kentucky, an EMW clinic in Lexington and a Planned Parenthood in Louisville, stopped performing abortions last year.

Stivers said in his ruling that the clinic demonstrated its patients “would be immediately and irreparably harmed” without the court’s order. It expires in two weeks.

“Thankfully, Kentucky women will not have to face the frightening reality of seeing the last abortion clinic in their state close,” said Brigitte Amiri, an attorney for the ACLU, in a written statement. “While this is a relief, it is just the first victory in the legal battle. We will continue to fight to ensure that women in Kentucky, and throughout the country, can get the care that they need.”

Doug Hogan, a spokesman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, expressed disappointment over the court’s decision, saying EMW’s license was never in jeopardy.

“The cabinet had informed counsel for EMW no final decision would be made regarding the abortion facility’s license until the administrative due process hearing required by Kentucky statutory laws was complete,” Hogan said.

The cabinet threatened on March 13 to revoke EMW’s license to perform abortions as early as April 3 over alleged “technical” deficiencies in the clinic’s required transfer agreements with a hospital and ambulance service.

The abortion clinic has had its agreements with the University of Louisville Hospital and Mercy Ambulance on file with the cabinet for several years.

Daniel Desrochers and the Associated Press contributed to this story.