LOUISVILLE — Kentucky's last abortion clinic, fighting to stay in business took its case to federal court Wednesday, arguing that enforcement actions by the governor's administration are meant to shut it down and deny women access to abortions in the state.
Lawyers for the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin argue the case is about patient safety.
The trial began Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Louisville.
EMW Women's Surgical Center is joined in the legal challenge by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky in claiming the Bevin administration's application of a state law requiring that clinics have "transfer agreements" with a hospital and ambulance service presents an unconstitutional obstruction to women's right to an abortion in Kentucky.
The transfer agreements are meant to ensure care for patients in the event of an emergency and are important for patient safety, according to state officials.
Under Bevin, a Republican who is against abortion, officials have cited alleged deficiencies in such transfer agreements as grounds for denying Planned Parenthood a license to provide abortions and seeking to revoke the license of EMW Women's Surgical Center.
If EMW is forced to close, that would make Kentucky the only state with no abortion provider.
Six other states — Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin — also require abortion clinics to have an agreement with a local hospital to transfer patients if complications arise, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a private research group that supports abortion rights.
Both EMW and Planned Parenthood are asking a federal judge to strike down the state law requiring transfer agreements as unconstitutional. They also argue the law is unnecessary because hospitals by law already are required to treat any patient in emergency and that Louisville Emergency Medical Services will transport patients without a written agreement.
Planned Parenthood, in court filings, also has alleged the Bevin administration went to extraordinary lengths to block its attempt to obtain a transfer agreement with a hospital and pressured University of Louisville Hospital to back out of such an agreement last year. A spokeswoman for Bevin has denied the claims.
The trial is expected to last about three days.
Follow Deborah Yetter on Twitter: @d_yetter