LOUISVILLE, ky — On March 13, Gov. Matthew G. Bevin and his administration moved to close the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the last remaining abortion clinic in Kentucky.
EMW was informed that their license would be revoked in 10 days due to insufficient transfer agreements with hospitals and ambulatory services. The deadline was later extended to April 3. EMW responded on March 29 by filing a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Louisville, calling the order “blatantly unconstitutional.” On March 31, U.S. District Judge Greg Stiver issued a temporary restraining order to prevent EMW’s closing.
The move to close the abortuary is a part of the pro-life strategy which revolves around Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws. These laws work by increasing the regulations governing child sacrifice centers so that existing facilities fail to meet the standards. Proponents of the laws typically push them on the grounds that they are concerned with safety and women’s health.
Doug Hogan, a spokesman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, defended the attempted closing, saying it was “enacted to protect the health and welfare of women who undergo abortions.” But in a press release concerning the Kentucky closing, ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri stated, “The state’s bureaucratic sleight of hand is fooling no one. This is an attempt to ban abortion in Kentucky, plain and simple.”
Abolitionists have long argued that seeking to close down abortion “clinics” because they fail to meet heath code requirements not only legitimizes abortion as healthcare, but in the long run, actually creates better abortion clinics. They further maintain that the strategy employed by pro-lifers in Kentucky is at best a distraction and argue that the abortuary in question will not only reopen with improvements but become immune to further opposition once it meets state medical emergency requirements. Dr. Joel McDurmon, president of American Vision, noted:
The legal maneuver here is the following: “You may not provide abortions unless you meet the criteria. You do not meet the criteria. Therefore, you may not provide abortions.” Since this is the case, however, what do you do when the clinic is able to secure such agreements, and then reapplies for its license? The state will have no legal choice but to give the license. There will have been nothing but a brief, temporary impediment to abortion in Kentucky.
Not everyone agrees with abolitionists that this strategy is deleterious to the cause of ending abortion.
Pro-life leaders such as Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, have historically failed to acknowledge the temporary nature of abortion clinic closures or express any belief that they have long-term negative effects. He stated on Friday, “Gov. Bevins and his administration has had great success in closing abortion facilities that would not comply with the law. We are highly optimistic that Kentucky will prevail in closing the EMW abortion facility in Louisville, as well. That would make Kentucky the first abortion-free state.”
Joseph Randall Spurgeon, leader of an abortion mill ministry in Kentucky joined Newman in praising the Governor’s abortion mill regulation, predicting on social media that, “On Monday, Kentucky will become the first State without a surgical abortion mill.”
Rusty Thomas, National Director of Operation Save America, likewise took to social media Friday, saying, “Let the battle of jurisdictions begin. Time for the church and state of Kentucky to interpose and end this evil once and for all.” He later added:
For all intents and purposes, the federal government will try to put a stop to what Governor Matt Bevin is trying to accomplish. It is time, however, for the state government to tell the federal government to go pound sand. It is time for the church and Matt Bevin to interpose on behalf of the preborn and convene an emergency session of the Kentucky Legislature to pass a bill criminalizing abortion in Kentucky and ignoring the Courts.
These statements seem to indicate that Thomas and Spurgeon do not believe TRAP laws are created as an alternative to directly criminalizing abortion, but embrace them as an auxiliary measure. They are also calling on the governor to interpose on behalf of the preborn and convene an emergency session of the Kentucky Legislature to pass a bill criminalizing abortion in Kentucky.
Gov. Bevin has not given any indication he intends to call an emergency legislative session or defy any federal court rulings regarding the legality of abortion itself.
Abolitionists have stated that they are not interested in rallying to support Bevin if he chooses to defy the federal courts over better safety conditions at child sacrifice centers instead of interposing on behalf of the preborn to abolish abortion because it is a murderous act. They say that closing clinics that do not comply with the law only grants credibility to those clinics that do comply. They also say that the real problem is the law itself, which allows the killing of preborn children, and not the failure of some clinics to comply with healthcare codes when the killing takes place.
“Why would you defy the Feds over the regulation of abortion when you could do it over the abolition of abortion?” asked abolitionist Toby Harmon upon hearing the call to support Gov. Bevin’s possible defiance of the courts injunction against his abortion clinic regulation. “Standing with him for the regulation of child sacrifice is standing for the regulation of child-sacrifice. That is the message that is sent out in every news report, in every pro-life news source, in every pro-life newsletter.”
Abolitionist Caytie Davis agreed: “If Bevin is looking to shut the clinic down because of some health code violation, and the clinic ends up complying with the regulation just to reopen (and they will) then Bevin will have no grounds for defying the feds. If he’s going to defy the feds at all it should be on the grounds that abortion is murder and he won’t allow it to continue in his state. Defying because of any other reason is standing on shaky ground.”
It is also worth noting that if Kentucky’s surgical abortion mill does temporarily close, non-surgical means of destroying human life, such as abortifacient drugs, will still be readily accessible in the state.
UPDATE: Joseph Spurgeon and Rusty Thomas, who are quoted in this article, clarified their position in a video released April 6, in which they applaud Bevin’s intentions, but seek to show him a better way. In the video, they explain why abortion regulations are not the best way to seek clinic closures.
“Kentucky sits at the precipice of history,” Spurgeon said in his Facebook post promoting the video. “It has one surgical abortion center left, a prolife governor, and a GOP supermajority in the legislature. If ever there was a time to act, it is now. We call upon the state of Kentucky to quit regulating the murder of children and abolish abortion now.”