A U.S. district judge granted an emergency restraining order to Kentucky’s only abortion clinic on Friday, allowing it to stay open as it sues a state agency that is trying to shut it down.
The EMW Women’s Surgical Center filed suit on Wednesday against the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which announced with only 10 days’ notice that it was revoking the abortion clinic’s license for technical reasons. The clinic’s attorney will argue that the state’s anti-abortion governor, Republican Matt Bevin, is retaliating against the clinic for challenging the state’s mandatory ultrasound law in court earlier this year.
“Their goal and the governor’s goal is to make sure women in Kentucky can’t have abortions, period full stop,” attorney Donald Cox, who represents the clinic, told Reuters in an interview.
Last year, the state renewed the clinic’s license through May 2017. But the state health agency unexpectedly told the clinic on March 13 that its patient transfer agreement with a local public hospital did not comply with state law. The state said the clinic obtained the signature of the hospital’s head of gynecology for the agreement, rather than the hospital’s owner, prompting Kentucky to order a shut down of the clinic. The public hospital is affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives, a faith-based health system in Colorado.
“What they appear to be saying is we have to go to the Catholics to get permission to do abortions,” Cox told NBC News. “Not a very likely scenario.”
If the court ultimately allows the state agency to shutter the clinic, Kentucky will become the only U.S. state with zero abortion clinics. Bevin said in February that the state is “in a position to lead this nation” in blocking access to abortion.