New Planned Parenthood clinic in Louisville suspends abortions after order from Bevin; anti-abortion bills abound in legislature

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky started offering abortions for the first time in Kentucky Jan. 21, but stopped a week later when Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration raised objections about its license application and he sent the organization a “cease and desist” order.

Planned Parenthood officials said in a letter to the licensing agency that their staff started performing abortions “only after receiving assurance from your office, in emails dated Dec. 1 and Dec. 7, that it would be appropriate,” Deborah Yetter of The Courier-Journal reports.

Bevin took office in the first minutes of Dec. 8, succeeding Democrat Steve Beshear. He has included language in his proposed budget that would bar any organization that provides abortions from receiving state funds, Yetter reports.

Yetter reports that a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman told her that the organization “applied for an abortion facility license and commenced services under the guidance of the Office of the Inspector General, the state office that is responsible for licensing health facilities,” though it didn’t say whether it had yet received the license. That office is part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

“Emails last year between a Planned Parenthood lawyer and the top
state official then in charge of licensing health clinics show that the
official told the organization it must open without the license in order
to get one,” Yetter reports in a later story. “That’s because the state won’t issue a final license
until a state inspector makes an unannounced visit to the facility and
inspects it after it has opened for business.” Bevin General Counsel Steve Pitt said that policy did’t appear to have ever been applied to an abortion clinic.

“Inspector General Stephanie Hold, who joined the new Bevin
administration on Dec. 22, wrote in a letter to PPINK dated Jan. 28
that there is no such clearance, as they now deem the application
deficient due to problems concerning the clinic’s written agreements
with an acute care hospital and a local ambulance service,” reports Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville, who first reported the start of abortions at the clinic.

stated that both written agreements only reference the old address of
the Planned Parenthood clinic, and not their new clinic on South Seventh
Street, which opened in December,” Sonka reports. “She also wrote that while PPINK submitted a written agreement with a
hospital capable of treating a patient with unforeseen complications
related to an abortion procedure, that hospital ‘has not agreed to
unconditional acceptance’ of such patients. . . . PPINK Chief Operating Officer Suzannah Wilson Overholt responded to Hold
in a letter Friday, stating that they are revising those agreements to
resubmit with their application.”

Kentucky previously had only one abortion provider, a private clinic in Louisville that also operates a part-time clinic in Lexington.

Margie Montgomery, president of Kentucky Right to Life, told Yetter that the group was dismayed by the presence of a new clinic and said it would continue to educate women about abortions and provide “positive” alternatives such as free pregnancy counseling centers.

Supporters of abortion rights welcomed the clinic. “We believe Kentucky is vastly underserved when it comes to health care options for women,” Derek Selznick, reproductive freedom project director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, told Yetter.

PPINK President Betty Cockrum told Yetter the decision to offer abortions was based on women’s medical needs, not politics. Its new site on Seventh Street in Louisville offered both surgical and non-surgical abortions (those induced by medication), as well as cancer screenings, medical exams, birth control services and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Yetter writes, “The move to provide abortions is sure to be controversial in Kentucky’s political climate as bills aimed at curbing abortion are pending in the current session of the General Assembly.”

Face-to-face consultation with a medical provider 24 hours before an abortion would be required by Senate Bill 4, which passed the House with an amendment to allow consultation by teleconference. The Senate is set to vote on the amended bill Monday, Feb. 1.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, told Yetter that she was sorry to learn Planned Parenthhood had begun offering abortion services in Louisville.

But Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Louisville Democrat and one of only three in the House that voted against SB4, welcomed the news. “Any time we have safe, legal health care services for women so desperately needed in this state, it’s a step forward for women in Kentucky,” she told Yetter.

Other abortion-related bills this session include Senate Bill 25, which passed out of the Senate Jan. 27 with a 36-2 vote. This bill would make the sale of fetal tissue from an aborted fetus a class C felony. Senate Bill 7 would set a priority system to fund state and federal family planning services. It is set for possible passage in the Senate, with an amendment, on Feb. 1.

The governor’s proposed budget, House Bill 303, on page 116 mandates that public funds, including money received from the federal government, shall not directly or indirectly be paid to any entity “that provides abortions or abortion services, or that is any affiliate of an entity that provides abortion services,” Tom Loftus reports for The Courier-Journal. He notes that the wording is nearly identical to SB 7.

Click here to see Kevin Wheatley’s report on these bills for cn|2‘s “Pure Politics;” here for his story that includes the links to the letters about the clinic.

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