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Cincinnati Appeals Court Weighs Abortion Decision

kentucky abortion
Ann Thompson
WHAM: Women's Health Advocacy Media Group and others who oppose abortion stand outside the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, following Kentucky's appeal of a lower court decision that is keeping the state's only abortion clinic open.

A three-judge panel must now decide if it will uphold a decision keeping Kentucky's only abortion clinic open. EMW Women's Surgical Center and the the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin presented oral arguments in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati Thursday.

EMW and the ACLU sued Kentucky over a 1998 law requiring abortion clinics to maintain transfer agreements with local hospitals and ambulance services in the case of medical emergencies. The abortion clinic had been unable to find a hospital to join the transfer agreement.

In September 2018, U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers ruled the law violated constitutionally protected due process rights because the agreements "do not advance a legitimate interest in promoting the health of women seeking abortions," and "the regulations effectively eliminate women's rights to abortion in the state."

Kentucky appealed his decision and the case is now in the hands of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision could take months.

Solicitor General Chad Meredith argued for the commonwealth. Outside the downtown Cincinnati courthouse he told reporters, "This is not about abortion. It's about women's safety."

Meredith says abortion facilities are available in neighboring states and the transfer agreement does not constitute an undue burden on the right to an abortion. Gov. Bevin is staunchly opposed to abortion and his legal team has argued "the commonwealth has a valid interest in protecting the health and safety of abortion patients."

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
The ACLU's Brigitte Amiri and Don Cox, representing EMW, say requiring a transfer agreement is not related to safety, it's a way to ban abortion.

EMW Attorney Don Cox told reporters, "This is all a charade. This is all about the Governor trying to stop abortion." He says any attempts to get a license without court intervention will continue to fail.

"He (Gov. Bevin) said as recent as two days ago he's going to end abortions in Kentucky, and now we're going to people who work for him, people who he can fire, and we're saying 'Well, let us do some more abortions.' What do you think is going to happen?"

ACLU Attorney Brigitte Amiri says the matter "is a solution in search of a problem. There has never been a problem with patient safety."