(CN) – Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the state from shutting it down next week, after officials suddenly claimed it was out of compliance with regulations.
Dr. Ernest Marshall filed the complaint on behalf of his patients at the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville against Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Marshall’s clinic has maintained the required agreements with a local hospital and ambulance company to transfer a patient in the event of an emergency, according to the lawsuit filed in Louisville federal court.
However, he says he received a letter from Glisson’s department on March 13 stating that the clinic was not in compliance with state requirements and will be shut down on April 3.
“Plaintiffs have had the same hospital agreement in place and on file with the Cabinet since 2014,” the lawsuit states. “And EMW has had virtually the same ambulance agreement on file with the Cabinet for more than eight years.”
Marshall added that the clinic had passed its most recent annual inspection, extending its license through May 31.
The doctor claims the shutdown would take place “around the same time” as a hearing in another lawsuit he had filed against Glisson challenging House Bill 2, a new law requiring ultrasounds and heartbeat monitoring for women seeking abortions
He says Glisson’s actions would shut down Kentucky’s only abortion clinic and “serve no valid state interest.”
“If EMW is forced to close its doors, there will be no licensed abortion facility in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and Kentucky women will be left without access to a critical and constitutionally protected medical procedure,” the complaint states.
Marshall alleges the shutdown would be retaliatory, “blatantly unconstitutional” and in violation of his due process rights because of the lack of a pre-revocation hearing.
He works with two other doctors at the clinic, which has been in operation since the 1980s.
“In the extremely unlikely event that a patient requires hospitalization, each of the three doctors that practice at EMW has admitting privileges at one or more acute care hospitals within one mile of the clinic,” the lawsuit states.
Marshall also argues that Kentucky law only provides for license revocation due to “substantial failure” to comply with state requirements. He called the timing of the Glisson’s letter “deeply suspicious.”
Attorney Donald L. Cox of the Louisville law firm of Lynch, Cox, Gilman and Goodman is representing the clinic, along with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Doug Hogan, spokesman for Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in a statement, "The Cabinet looks forward to defending the statutorily-required transfer agreements, enacted to protect the health and welfare of women who undergo abortions, in the state administrative proceedings and before the Court."