No one who heard Gov. Matt Bevin’s lawyer make his case for closing one of the state’s two remaining abortion clinics can doubt that Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone ruled correctly by allowing the EMW Women’s Clinic to stay open:
▪ Bevin’s lawyer presented no evidence of harm to patients during EMW’s 26 years in Lexington.
▪ EMW has filed the monthly statistical reports required by the state, so there’s been no attempt to hide or mislead.
▪ Testimony from administration witnesses made it clear that EMW was singled out for extraordinarily harsh treatment. Other health-care providers would have been given a chance to contest citations administratively and correct problems. In 2006 when Republican Ernie Fletcher was governor, a state review of the issues raised by Bevin triggered no action against the clinic.
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“In addition to the evidence indicating that EMW is operating legally and in conformity with the most important regulations of a licensed abortion facility,” Scorsone ruled that closing the clinic would be against the public interest.
“EMW is the only physician’s office that routinely provides abortion services in the Eastern half of the state, and both parties agree that a right to an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy is constitutionally protected. Closing EMW would have a severe, adverse impact on the women in the Eastern part of the state. Considering all the circumstances in this case, the equities involved do not justify enjoining EMW from operating.”
Bevin should call off this campaign of harassment against providers of a legal, constitutionally protected procedure. The administration, which is also using the courts to stop Planned Parenthood from performing abortions in Louisville, is wasting public resources and showing a cavalier disconnect with Kentucky women.
Stephen Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, shrugged off concerns about making women travel an extra 90 minutes past Lexington to EMW’s clinic in Louisville as if they need only tell their secretaries to rearrange their schedules.
Three out of four women ending a pregnancy in this country say they cannot afford a child and 60 percent of them already are mothers, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Kentucky has one of the highest proportions of poor families and some of the stingiest child-care subsidies in the nation. Our teen pregnancy rate is well above the national average, and 47 percent of all pregnancies in the state are unplanned.
The Bevin administration refuses to raise the minimum wage, canceled a minimum wage increase for state employees and insists the state cannot afford health care for working poor Kentuckians, who also lack even unpaid leave to give birth or care for a sick child. Kentucky could do a lot more for its families other than trying to force them to have more children.
That the governor’s general counsel is personally waging this battle speaks volumes. Pitt said he was filling in because the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, charged with protecting abused children among other duties, is short on lawyers, while a seasoned cabinet lawyer sat beside him during the hearing in Lexington.
If Pitt and Bevin get their way, the irreparable injury will be to the rights of Kentuckians to control their bodies and futures.