Bevin can’t outlaw abortion but he’s trying

Gov. Matt Bevin continues to waste public resources — including the federal courts’ time — by attacking the rights of Kentuckians to make private decisions about their lives and their families’ futures.

Bevin’s latest assault would effectively outlaw abortion in Kentucky by shutting down the state’s last abortion provider.

Fortunately, a history of U.S. Supreme Court decisions stands as a bulwark against this attack on reproductive rights.

The EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville has been the main provider of abortions in Kentucky since 1980. It has been the only provider since the Bevin administration shut down two other clinics, in Lexington and Louisville, over licensing issues. (The Lexington office of EMW challenged the closure in court but gave up the fight after losing its building lease.)

The state renewed EMW’s license in Louisville just last May, but suddenly earlier this month discovered an alleged deficiency in the clinic’s paperwork and ordered EMW closed by April 3, which would leave Kentucky with no provider of non-emergency abortions.

Since the landmark 1973 ruling that the Constitution’s privacy guarantee protects legal abortion, the Supreme Court also has ruled that states may regulate the procedure but must not place an undue burden on women choosing to end a pregnancy. Last year in a 5-3 decision, the high court struck down Texas restrictions that served no purpose except to limit access to abortion.

Forcing Kentucky women to travel out of state to exercise a legal right certainly imposes an undue burden on them, while the licensing requirements cited by Bevin’s administration serve no medical purpose. (Likewise, Kentucky’s new law forcing doctors to narrate an ultrasound for patients having an abortion serves no medical purpose.)

It appears that officials of the University of Louisville hospital may have been pressured to withdraw from a transfer agreement with EMW, which would be contemptible, but probably is irrelevant because last year’s Supreme Court ruling also exposed requirements for transfer agreements as a ruse serving no medical purpose and intended only to make it harder to get an abortion.

Abortion is extremely safe, on par with surgery in a dentist’s office. The EMW physicians have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Dial 911 and an ambulance comes, no prior agreement necessary. And all hospitals must treat emergencies.

The Supreme Court found that using red tape — as Bevin is doing — to shut down abortion providers increases medical risks by forcing women to end pregnancies through dangerous means.

The clinic has sued to block the shutdown order.

And Kentuckians are again relying on the federal courts to protect their rights without delay.