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Editorial urges courts to protect Ky. women's right to abortion care

September 8, 2016 — "It's disappointing that the [Kentucky] Supreme Court put the prerogatives of government above the rights of the governed by upholding the temporary closing of the EMW Women's Clinic in Lexington," leaving the state with only one abortion clinic, located in Louisville, a Lexington Herald-Leader editorial states.

According to the editorial, the state in the lawsuit failed to show that "any patient has ever been harmed in the 27 years that EMW [in Lexington] has been openly serving women making a choice protected by the Constitution."

In the state Supreme Court ruling, the editorial notes that the justices focused "on the narrow question of whether a three-judge Court of Appeals panel had abused its discretion when it overruled Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone, who in March denied the state's request for a temporary injunction closing EMW." The editorial explains that while the justices did not consider "the constitutionality of Kentucky's licensing requirements for abortion providers and the state's targeting of EMW," such questions are likely "destined for the [state] Supreme Court as Gov. Matt Bevin [R] wages a legal assault on reproductive rights."

According to the editorial, the licensing law at issue in the case does not distinguish between abortion procedures and medication abortions, nor between first-trimester abortion care and more complex abortion care provided later in pregnancy. The editorial notes that EMW's clinic in Lexington only offers first-trimester abortion care, while the EMW clinic in Louisville offers abortion care early and later in pregnancy.

The editorial cites the recent Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that "state restrictions that limit access to abortion and serve no medical purpose are unconstitutional and increase risk by pressuring women to end pregnancies through unsafe means."

In the Kentucky lawsuit, Scorsone ruled that closing the clinic "would be against the public interest and that this 'severe, adverse impact' on women outweighed the Bevin administration's allegations that EMW lacked the proper license." According to the editorial, the state "Supreme Court acknowledged the burden the injunction places on women but said the record lacked specifics about that burden." Further, the editorial notes that the state Supreme Court did not take into account how the clinic successfully resolved problems cited in a state inspection.

The editorial concludes, "Women and families know better than the governor what is best for them. The courts have a duty to safeguard Kentuckians' constitutional rights, including the right to control their own bodies" (Lexington Herald-Leader, 9/6).