In recent months, states across the county have ramped up efforts to create heightened restrictions on abortion access. The stakes are especially high in Kentucky, where the last remaining abortion clinic, the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, faces the threat of closure after the state claimed that the clinic's agreements with hospital and ambulance services contained technical deficiencies.
If the state's efforts are successful, Kentucky would be the first surgical-abortion-free state in the United States. The impact could be detrimental for women across the state.
"Kentucky for a long time was not on the policy radar," said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks state abortion legislation for the Guttmacher Institute, in an interview with the New York Times. "Now Kentucky is following the model of Texas and Ohio, where they are adopting restrictions or making it very difficult to keep clinic doors open."
Kentucky is one of seven states — along with North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, Wyoming, and West Virginia — with only one abortion provider. In 1978, there were 17 abortion providers in the state.
The state's Republican governor, Matt Bevin, has been vocal about his attempts to limit abortion access in the state, even dubbing himself an "unapologetically pro-life individual." Earlier this year, he signed a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks and blocked a Planned Parenthood clinic from performing abortions. In January, EMW Women's Clinic in Lexington was forced to close after facing a lengthy legal battle with the state over its licensing. As the case dragged on, the clinic couldn't afford to stay open without seeing patients and the landlord opted not to renew the lease. The Louisville clinic is the only one that remains open in the state.
On July 11, Women to the Front, a progressive action group, will host a fundraiser for EMW. All proceeds from the event, which includes "badass rocker babes, irresistible El Diablo tacos, one-of-a-kind raffle items, a silent auction, and Brooklyn's finest cocktails," will go toward escalating legal fees and other urgently needed funds for the Louisville clinic.
The fundraiser will take place from 7-10 p.m. at Union Pool (484 Union Ave, Brooklyn, New York) and feature sets from Breanna Barbara and NYC-based band Roya, led by Rahill Jamalifard and Alix Brown. Tickets can be bought online for $18.
We're a little over half way to our goal of raising $2.5K for the LAST abortion clinic in Kentucky - donate! https://t.co/qVEOY5ptfu— Dana Balch (@Danabalch) July 8, 2017
For those outside the New York area, there are myriad other ways to support Kentucky's last abortion clinic.
1. Donate to Women to the Front's GoFundMe page.
So far, the page has raised $2,245 of their total goal of $3,500.
2. Reach out to elected officials.
If you want to make a difference, let your elected officials know these are not the types of policies that you want or support.
"This fits into the national picture, making sure that that we stand up and are heard and we take away the shame and stigma related to abortion, and tell our elected officials wherever we live that these are not the policies that we want," Brigitte Amiri, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, tells Bustle. "Everyone should be able to make the best decisions for themselves and their families."
3. Assist the escorts who help women in and out of the facility.
Louisville Clinic Escort volunteers are vital in ensuring people seeking an abortion can enter the clinic, especially as anti-abortion protestors shout slurs and try to prevent women from seeking the procedure. The volunteers accompany people to the clinic's doors while practicing deescalation and promoting normalization of abortion access. You can donate to the escorts here or volunteer to escort if you live in Kentucky.
4. Rally together for EMW.
In April, and in response to its possible closure, hundreds rallied in support of the clinic. Throngs of people came together with signs like "Keep abortion legal in Kentucky" and "#Resist." But, like the New York City fundraiser, these types of rallies don't have to be local — you can organize a rally of support across the country.
“With just one clinic to care for the women in need of abortion services, the forced closure of EMW will have devastating consequences for women in Kentucky," said attorney Don Cox in an interview with the ACLU. "The state is hiding behind sham justifications when its true intent is to shut down this clinic and prevent a woman from making a real decision about her pregnancy."
EMW's Women's Surgical Center, a privately owned facility staffed by board-certified Obstetricians and Gynecologists, was established in 1980. Approximately 80 percent of abortions are performed in the first trimester, and the facility currently provides both medical and surgical abortions, according to the legal complaint.
Nationwide, less than 0.3 percent of abortion patients experience a complication requiring hospitalization on the day of the abortion — and the rates are even lower at EMW.
Kentucky's Last Abortion Clinic Sues State to Stay Open - If the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville clos... https://t.co/mgUgIuY6Fa— Haiti News Network (@HaitiNewsNet) March 30, 2017
The ACLU filed a lawsuit, EMW v. Glisson, to challenge the facility's closure and block what they consider to be unnecessary and unconstitutional state laws. They argue the lawsuit mimics last June's Supreme Court case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. According to that decision, centered on a Texas law, it is unconstitutional to require business arrangements with a hospital, because it serves no medical purpose and poses major harm to women.
Amiri says that she considers the state's grounds for closure to be TRAP laws, or laws that single out abortion providers and impose requirements that are more burdensome than those imposed on other medical practices. For instance, the state wants to revoke EMW's license because their written agreement with a local hospital was signed by the head of the hospital's head of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health, and the government claims it needed to be signed by someone higher up at the hospital.
"We think such a requirement is blatantly unconstitutional in the face of the Supreme Court's decision last June," she says. "This is the same type of business arrangement with a hospital that serves no medical justification but instead significantly burdens patients' access to abortion and even more so in the case of Kentucky than in Texas because in Kentucky the last clinic would we shut down, effectively banning abortion in the entire state."
In April, a federal court issued an order to allow EMW to remain open while the state challenges the clinic's agreements with local hospital and ambulance service. The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until a final judgment is declared for the case. The trial starts on Sept. 6.