Though some states restrict the practice as much as possible, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion across the nation. There are, however, seven states that are down to a single abortion provider each. If Governor Matt Bevin has his way, Kentucky will be the first abortion-free state since 1973.
Pro-Life Governor Tries to Close Kentucky’s Only Abortion Provider
The Bluegrass State’s conservative Republican governor, Matt Bevin, calls himself “unapologetically pro-life.” In an attempt to close Kentucky’s only remaining abortion provider, Gov. Bevin tried to revoke the EMW Women’s Surgical Center’s license for not maintaining adequate agreements with local hospitals and ambulance services to transfer patients in the case of an emergency.
Governor Bevin defends the state’s licensing requirements as critical safeguards to protect women should anything go wrong. The clinic, on the other hand, denies that any such need exists. They and the ACLU responded with a federal lawsuit – later joined by Planned Parenthood – arguing that the state’s demands lack any medical justification and represent an unconstitutional barrier for women seeking abortions. The trial began Wednesday and is expected to last at least into early next week. The clinic will remain open throughout proceedings, and will only close should the state win.
Lawsuit Targets Kentucky’s Transfer Agreement Requirement
According to the lawsuit, the state of Kentucky approved the clinic’s hospital admission and transport agreements last year, then decided in March that the same agreement was no longer acceptable. ACLU attorneys claim that the licensing requirements have no real medical basis. Complications during the abortion process are rare, they say, and ambulances transfer patients and hospitals admit and treat them even without prearranged agreements.
Kentucky Licensing Requirement Seems Designed to Close Clinics
Given the background in this case, it does appear that the sudden change in licensing requirements is simply an attempt by anti-abortion state regulators to circumvent federal law supported by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling. CBS News reports:
“The stakes in this case couldn’t be higher: the very right to access legal abortion in the state of Kentucky is on the line,” said Dr. Ernest Marshall, who opened the clinic in the early 1980s.
What Does This Mean for the Pro-Life Movement?
Despite the results of Roe v. Wade, whether abortion is a constitutionally protected right remains an oft debated topic. This attempt to close Kentucky’s final provider, however, does not challenge the laws allowing abortion to take place. If Governor Bevin and his colleagues win this case, Kentucky will become the only abortion free state – and it might embolden the remaining six states which only have one abortion provider each to close those clinics by way of licensing technicalities.
If Kentucky becomes an abortion free state next week, many abolitionists will count it a victory. And to some degree, it will be – the bottom line is that whether by changing the law or by closing clinics through technicalities, an abortion-free Kentucky means lives saved. However, this would be a hollow victory for the pro-life movement. No state or national laws will change, and Roe v. Wade will not be overturned. Kentucky would only remain abortion free so long as it takes would-be abortion providers to jump through whatever hoops the state sets up for them.
In the fight to abolish abortion, every closed clinic is a step in the right direction. But the end goal can’t be to banish abortion through onerous licensing requirements and rapid-fire changes. These can be both met by providers when they’re willing and able, and challenged in court when they’re not. To truly end abortion in the United States, both laws and minds must change.