Lexington abortion clinic to face injunction hearing Wednesday

Lee Mengistu

Gov. Matt Bevin’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services lawsuit against the only abortion provider in Lexington will take a step forward Wednesday at an injunction hearing in the Fayette County Circuit Courthouse.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services filed a suit against Lexington’s EMW Women’s Clinic for performing abortions without a license and for an agreement with a hospital to have transport in case of emergency, according to a statement released March 3.

The clinic is one of three that performs abortions in Kentucky. The other two are the new Planned Parenthood and the other EMW clinic in Louisville. If the complaint is upheld, the Lexington location could be charged with a fine of up to $10,000 a day and forced to close until a proper license is issued.

“It’s not a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of reality that over half the state will go unserved,” EMW’s attorney Scott White said.

Until the lawsuit was filed, the clinic performed early-term medical and surgical abortions for women who were pregnant for 12 weeks or less.

All of the location’s patients underwent a pelvic exam and ultrasound prior to their procedure. Medical abortions, consisting of a series of pills taken orally and vaginally, were the majority of abortions conducted at EMW Lexington.

The clinic closed temporarily March 10-11 after the injunction hearing, initially scheduled for March 11, was postponed to the following Wednesday.

After an anonymous complaint led to a February inspection, officials found the clinic was “unsanitary,” had expired and unlabeled medicine, and solely performed abortions. As a result, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services said it must comply with the abortion clinic licensure law, which was passed several years after EMW opened. The clinic, established in 1989, had not been inspected in ten years.

Though the official complaint claims the clinic “knowingly” disobeyed the law, White disagreed.

“Before the inspector visit, they had no notice from the state at all that what they were doing was outside the scope of what they were allowed to do,” White said.

White said he was confident the court will decide to allow the clinic to continue service without a license, and said EMW will likely apply for the proper paperwork for extra precaution.

The suit is the second abortion clinic lawsuit filed by Bevin’s administration, after Louisville’s new Planned Parenthood was sued for conducting abortions without proper approval. Bevin also recently passed the informed consent law, which mandates women seeking an abortion speak to their doctor either in person or via video chat 24 hours prior to the procedure.

Senate Bill 212, which recently passed through state senate, adds further requirements to clinics with the penalty of closure, and another approved House bill requires doctors to perform an ultrasound and describe the baby to a woman prior to an abortion.