In a setback for Kentucky’s Republican governor Matt Bevin and a huge victory for pro-choice rights, a federal judge has struck down a law written with the express goal of making it impossible for abortion clinics to operate in the state.
The ruling late Friday means that the one remaining health center providing abortion care in the state, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, can remain open.
Planned Parenthood said the ruling will also allow it expand abortion and reproductive health services for Kentuckians. The head of Planned Parenthood Indiana and Kentucky, Christie Gillespie said in the wake of the decision, her organization “looks forward to expanding abortion access soon.”
BREAKING: Federal judge strikes down burdensome Kentucky abortion restrictions.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPIndKentucky) September 28, 2018
The now-invalidated measure required abortion clinics to have written agreements with a hospital and an ambulance service in case of medical emergencies. U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers, in a 60 page ruling Friday, wrote that the law violates constitutional protections for residents of Kentucky.
“The court has carefully reviewed the evidence presented in this case and concludes that the record is devoid of any credible proof that the challenged regulations have any tangible benefit to women’s health,” Stivers wrote.
“On the other hand, the regulations effectively eliminate women’s rights to abortions in the state. Therefore, the challenged regulations are unconstitutional.”
As Mother Jones reported, closing EMW would have made the Kentucky the only US state without at least one abortion clinic.
Bevin’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn said he plans to appeal the decision. “We are disappointed that the court would strike down a statute that protects the health and well-being of Kentucky women,” Kuhn said.
Abortion rights advocates in the state, meanwhile, were elated. The ruling was greeted with jubilation by the American Civil Liberties Union, which joined the legal fight on behalf of the Louisville abortion clinic.
“The court’s decision recognized the Kentucky law for what it is: an attack on women wrapped up in a bogus justification and pushed by politicians who’ve been transparent in their pursuit to ban abortion in the state of Kentucky,” Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.
.@brigitte_amiri on today's ruling "The court’s decision recognized the KY law for what it is: an attack on women wrapped up in a bogus justification & pushed by politicians who’ve been transparent in their pursuit to ban abortion in the state of KY" https://t.co/PrTHuTv6JK
— ACLU of Kentucky (@ACLUofKY) September 28, 2018
“While today we celebrate a victory for women’s health, the fight continues at the state and federal level against the unprecedented attacks on women’s access to abortion,” Amiri said.
EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which argued that Bevin was using the law as a way to shut it down, filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the state from revoking its license. Planned Parenthood joined the suit, saying the measure was being used by the governor as a way to avoid giving it a license to provide abortions in Louisville.