U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers ruled on Friday that abortion facilities in Kentucky don’t have to have ambulance transfer or transport agreements with local hospitals. Because of this, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s only current abortion facility, will be allowed to remain open — a center which was found to have had filthy conditions in a 2016 inspection. The law was challenged by EMW, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK). According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Opponents argued the law was unnecessary, in that clinics already have access to local hospital and emergency medical transportation. Lawyers for [Governor Matt] Bevin said the law is necessary for patient safety.”
While some pro-choicers reacted by saying the ruling was a “victory for women” in ensuring abortion remains accessible in the state, others used verbiage that seemed oddly jubilant. The Courier-Journal notes that “Kim Greene, board chair of the regional Planned Parenthood, hailed the decision,” saying (emphasis added):
We are thrilled that women in Kentucky who need this medical service [read: abortion] will be able to access it here. We look forward to helping those women.
Thrilled. Thrilled that women will be having abortions. Looking forward to women getting pregnant and then cutting their own children’s lives short. Apparently, Planned Parenthood is practically giddy at the prospect of now being able to offer abortions after its application for a license to do so was denied by the state based on the transfer agreement law. (So much for the old claim that no one is really pro-abortion.)
The judge was so against the regulations that in a separate order, he required the Bevin administration to pay Planned Parenthood “about $20,000 in costs for Planned Parenthood after it claimed no one from the governor’s office showed up for a deposition in the case last year.” The governor’s office responded that they disagreed with the “decision to award attorneys’ fees of $20,000 of Kentucky taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood due to a discovery dispute.”
The judge wrote in his opinion that hospitals were apparently unwilling to sign agreements with abortion facilities:
The evidence presented here establishes clearly that scant medical benefits from transfer and transport agreements are far outweighed by the burden on Kentucky women seeking abortions….
Regardless of the reasons, it is clear that despite EMW and Planned Parenthood’s best efforts, no Louisville hospital is willing to sign a transfer agreement with this type of facility. As a result, it is impossible for EMW plaintiffs or Planned Parenthood to comply with the requirement of such agreements.
According to the Washington Times:
Attorneys for the state contended the transfer agreements did not put a substantial burden on a women’s right to obtain an abortion. They said the law is needed to ensure that women experiencing complications from abortions are properly transferred to hospitals.
The state’s attorneys also had noted the availability of abortion facilities in neighboring states, even presenting charts depicting the distance from various Kentucky cities to abortion clinics in those of other states.
The judge responded by claiming that the state was “trampl[ing] upon the rights of Kentucky women” by contending they could go out of state for abortions.
The Courier-Journal notes that last year, a federal judge “struck down a different state law requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds and attempt to show them and describe them to the patient” because he claimed the law was “intended to dissuade women from choosing abortion by forcing ultrasound images, detailed descriptions of the fetus and the sounds of the fetal heartbeat on them, against their will, at a time when they are most vulnerable.” However, multiple states have ultrasound laws in place as part of informed consent prior to an abortion. According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, “14 states require verbal counseling or written materials to include information on accessing ultrasound services” and “26 states regulate the provision of ultrasound by abortion providers.”