CINCINNATI, Ohio - The fate of Kentucky’s controversial transfer agreement law is in the hands of an Appeals Court.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth District heard arguments from the Bevin administration appealing a lower court’s decision striking down Kentucky’s transfer agreement law as unconstitutional.
A 1998, state law required abortion facilities within Kentucky to have written agreements with an ambulance service and hospital for patient care.
EMW Women’s Surgical Center filed suit last year claiming Gov. Bevin was abusing the law in attempt to force the clinic, the only remaining abortion clinic in Kentucky, to close.
Attorney Chad Meredith argued the case for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Bevin administration that transfer agreements do not create an undue burden and was in place for the safety of women receiving abortions.
“I think our evidence in this case and our arguments show that it doesn’t,” Meredith told reporters after. “The Sixth Circuit has already affirmed Ohio’s transfer agreement statute over a decade ago and I don’t think anything has changed since then and I think our current statue is equally as constitutional.”
Meredith also argued, should EMW close, every woman in Kentucky is within 150 miles of an abortion clinic in another state, furthering their argument that no undue burden is placed by the law.
Attorneys for EMW Surgical Center say that’s not how the law works.
“The Supreme Court has said that you look to the state’s border to determine whether there is an undue burden and you can’t look to out of state clinics to decide whether there is a burden,” Brigitte Amiri, the attorney representing EMW, told reporters after the hearing. “The state can’t force other states to pick up their constitutional rights that they’ve abdicated.”
Meredith also argued EMW is able to apply for a temporary waiver to continue practicing the surgeries for 90 days while they wait to obtain a transfer agreement with a hospital.
EMW said they can’t sustain a staff only having 90 days of certainty—uncertainty they say is furthered by the Bevin Administration’s goal of ending abortion.
“We have the governor who says no abortion, he said as recently as two days ago he was going to end abortions in Kentucky, and now we are going to people who work for him, people who he can fire and we’re saying ‘let us do some more abortions’,” EMW Attorney Don Cox said. “What do you think is going to happen? The answer is there is no way in hell that we’re going to get a license from anybody who works for Governor Bevin.”
The administration maintained to the appeals court they are not trying to ban abortion all together in Kentucky, but to make sure it’s safe.
“If the Commonwealth just wanted to shut down abortion clinics, we would say too bad you didn’t get your transfer agreements you’re done,” Meredith told the court. “But this is not about shutting down abortion clinics, this is about women’s safety and health.”
Attorneys for EMW say that’s a farce.
“This is all a charade, this is about the governor trying to stop abortions in Kentucky they don’t care about women’s health, so why are all dancing around the big issue,” Cox said. “Do we want to take care of women or do we want to go on some crusade to end abortion? That is what the other side is trying to do.”
The law is currently on an injunction, it could take several months for the appeals court to make a ruling. If they keep the lower court’s ruling the Bevin administration could appeal it to the Kentucky Supreme Court.