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Ky. Clinic Halts Abortion Care in Response to Letter From State OIG

February 1, 2016 — In response to a letter from Gov. Matt Bevin's (R) administration ordering the organization to stop offering abortion care at its Louisville clinic, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky on Sunday released records showing it received authorization from former Gov. Steve Beshear's (D) administration to provide the procedure, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports (Yetter, Louisville Courier-Journal, 2/1).

According to the Courier-Journal, the clinic is the first location in Kentucky at which PPINK has offered abortion (Yetter, Louisville Courier-Journal, 1/29).

Background

According to the Courier-Journal, PPINK filed for a license for the clinic on Nov. 19, 2015. The application was filed before Bevin, who was elected on Nov. 3, 2015, took office on Dec. 8, 2015. The clinic opened on Dec. 11, 2015, and started offering abortion care on Jan. 21. PPINK announced on Jan. 28 that it was offering abortion services (Louisville Courier-Journal, 2/1).

PPINK stopped providing abortion care last week, after receiving cessation orders from acting state Inspector General Stephanie Hold on Jan. 28.

In the letter, Hold alleged that PPINK's new facility did not comply with state licensing standards. Hold said the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services found that the clinic's license application does not include a written agreement with an ambulance service and a hospital, as required by the state. According to the letter, the lack of such agreements prevents the state Office of Inspector General "from continuing [its] review of [the] application at this time." The letter orders PPINK to "cease and desist" providing abortion care.

PPINK Responds

On Thursday, PPINK stated that it had applied for a license and "commenced services under the guidance of [OIG], the cabinet office that is responsible for licensing health facilities."

In a letter Friday to CHF, Suzannah Wilson Overholt, chief operating officer of PPINK, explained that the organization began offering abortion care at the Louisville clinic "only after receiving assurance from your office, in emails dated Dec. 1 and Dec. 7, that it would be appropriate while we await a survey."

According to the Courier-Journal, Kentucky licensing rules require that prior to issuing a license, officials must conduct a survey of the health facility after it starts commences operation. The survey has not yet been conducted at the Louisville clinic.

Overholt said the organization would submit the updated materials to OIG "as soon as possible" (Louisville Courier-Journal, 1/29).

PPINK CEO and President Betty Cockrum said, "We in no way, shape or form would contemplate offering abortion procedures in anything but a legal environment." She said while PPINK would work to address Bevin administration's concerns over the license application, the organization would "pursue judicial relief" if the administration refuses to provide a license.

PPINK, Beshear Administration Communications

In emails exchanged last year, Maryellen Mynear -- former inspector general at CHFS, who left her position when Bershear's administration ended on Dec. 7, 2015 -- told Planned Parenthood officials that the organization must offer abortion care before receiving its license. Specifically, Mynear in an email to Carole Christian, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, said the organization must offer "services for which it seeks licensure" before it can undergo an unannounced state inspection as part of the licensing process.

Mynear confirmed the process in a Dec. 1, 2015, email to Christian, in which Christian asked whether the policy would apply to an abortion clinic and raised concerns about possible controversy over operating as an unlicensed facility. Mynear wrote, "I realize the inherent conflict in this approach, but it is indeed the process by which the (inspector general) has historically issued licenses and is a reasonable application of all statutes and regulations read in conjunction with one another."

According to the Courier-Journal, Mynear also confirmed via email that PPINK had filed all the required application materials for the state to schedule its inspection.

Bevin Administration Responds

Stephen Pitt, Bevin's general counsel, said he knew about the communications between PPINK and officials in the Beshear administration, but that the Beshear administration had acted incorrectly. He said the licensure policy outlined by Mynear had never been applied to an abortion clinic.

According to Pitt, PPINK should have communicated with the Bevin administration while the license was pending and before offering abortion care (Louisville Courier-Journal, 2/1).