Health

In January, it’ll be two years since Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky stopped providing abortions at its Louisville clinic. And a court ruling issued last week means there are still more legal battles ahead before there will be a decision about whether the facility will be able to perform abortions again.

So, what’s happened over the past two years?

In late 2015, the clinic got the go-ahead from former Governor Steve Beshear’s administration to start performing abortions and provide women’s health services, even though it didn’t have a license yet. Planned Parenthood argued that was what the facility had been told to do, later providing a series of emails with the former state Inspector General showing the health provider had been told to begin operating without a license, so it could then be inspected. From a February 2, 2016 story:

Under the procedure outlined by [then-state Inspector General Maryellen] Mynear to Planned Parenthood, the organization would have to begin providing abortion services prior to being issued the license, according to emails provided to WFPL News by the health services organization. That’s because an inspection of the facility would need to be conducted while the facility was operating.

The document would be issued following the inspection.

In a Dec. 1 email, Mynear told the Planned Parenthood chapter she recognized the “inherent conflict in this approach.” She added it is the process by which the Office of Inspector General has historically operated.

But before the clinic was licensed, Governor Matt Bevin was inaugurated. In January 2016, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced it had started providing abortions at the Louisville clinic. A day after the announcement, the state inspector general ordered the facility to stop performing abortions.

Lawsuit Filed Against Planned Parenthood

A few weeks later, on February 18, the state filed a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood. It stated that there had been 23 abortions performed in the two months the clinic was open. That, the state stated, was illegal because the clinic didn’t yet have a license.

“Kentucky’s laws regarding the operation of abortion facilities are clear: such facilities must first obtain a license before performing abortions, and there is a significant fine for any abortions provided without a license,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also said that the clinic’s records of having agreements with an ambulance service and a hospital – to be used in case of an emergency – were a “sham.”

It also states that the information about the licensing that Mynear gave to Planned Parenthood never existed.

Lawsuit Dismissed; Decision Overturned

That lawsuit was dismissed in July 2016 by a Jefferson Circuit Court judge. But the state appealed that decision. And last Friday, a three-judge panel on the Kentucky Court of Appeals said the lawsuit shouldn’t have been dismissed.

“While the Cabinet may have a difficult time proving its allegations, we believe said allegations are sufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” the appeals court decision reads.

The case will now go back to the Jefferson Circuit Court. Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), said in a statement that the organization is still confident the court will side with the clinic.

“PPINK sought the advice of the governmental agency charged with overseeing licensure and followed its guidance. We did nothing wrong,” Gillespie wrote in a statement.

Steve Pitt, Governor Bevin’s general counsel, said in a written statement last week that the facts of the case are ‘clear and alarming.’

“Planned Parenthood’s Louisville facility performed 23 abortions without proper licensing or emergency safeguards in place,” Pitt wrote. “This disregard for both the safety of women and the rule of law is simply unacceptable, and Planned Parenthood must be held accountable.”

Currently, there is only one legal abortion provider in Kentucky: the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville. Lexington’s only clinic closed in January after being sued by the Bevin Administration and denied a license.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.