Trial that will decide fate of Kentucky's last abortion clinic begins

A trial is underway in federal court to decide whether Kentucky will become the first state without a clinic that performs abortions.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said the EMW Women's Surgical Center, located on West Market Street in Louisville, is failing to meet state health regulations.

The argument is over a transfer agreement. Those opposed say Bevin only wants to create more barriers for women seeking abortions. On Wednesday morning, attorneys for Bevin, the EMW Women's Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood began to hash it out in court.

Brigitte Amiri, an attorney with the ACLU, said what's at stake is whether Kentucky becomes the first state where abortion is banned. Earlier this year, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services tried to take the clinic's license.

Bevin's administration told the clinic it was not meeting state health regulations requiring abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals and ambulance services in cases of medical emergencies.

State regulators said those conditions are safeguards that protect women's health, but the clinic argues the requirements are an unconstitutional barrier to abortion because they lack "medical justification."

In court Wednesday, a judge heard testimony from a doctor who performs abortions. The doctor disputed the need for transfer agreements, saying complications during abortions are rare and are typically handled by the clinic staff.

Stephen Pitt, an attorney for Bevin, said he is only interested in protecting the health and welfare of Kentucky women.

"The governor and the secretary of the cabinet are attempting to enforce the law that requires, for the safety of women, for abortion clinics and other clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals, as well as recognized every state in this area, most states in the union have those statutes," Pitt said.

Kentucky is one of seven states with just one abortion provider left.

Pro-life advocates said what happens in the trail could set the precedent for other states. It's expected to last at least three days.

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