Nevada leads coalition asking appeals court to affirm decision striking down Kentucky abortion law

Attorney General Aaron Ford is leading a coalition of 20 attorneys general asking a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling striking down a Kentucky law that would have effectively eliminated the only abortion provider in that state.

In an amicus brief filed Thursday, the attorneys general argue that the accessibility of abortion providers in a neighboring state should not be considered when determining whether a state has unduly burdened a woman by limiting the availability of abortion services in her home state. The states say that their health-care infrastructure would be strained if neighboring states relied on them to provide abortion services.

“Funding abortions for indigent women from out of state could divert scant health-care resources away for state residents,” the brief states.

Ford, in a statement, reiterated those concerns.

“Today’s brief impacts states like Nevada because neighboring states could use our status as a state that allows reproductive healthcare services to restrict a woman’s constitutional right to these services in her own state,” he said.

A lower court judge struck down a Kentucky law in September that required abortion clinics to have agreements with hosptials and ambulance services to provide emergency transportation services and care to patients in the event of an emergency.

EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the only abortion provider in the state, was notified in 2017 that its license to perform abortions had been renewed in error because it was allegedly out of compliance with the law. Planned Parenthood, which has been trying to obtain a license to become the state’s second abortion provider, was told by the state it would be unable to do so because of the transport and transfer law.

Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services is appealing the lower court’s ruling.

In the brief, the states also ask the appeals court to ensure that reproductive health regulations promote women’s health without creating barriers to accessing care. They argue that any general benefit of Kentucky’s law is outweighed by the prospect that it would force the closure of the state’s only abortion clinic.

“Any health benefit conferred by law generally, as well as any minimal benefit of the law in the abortion services context, does not justify the resulting burden on a woman’s right to an abortion,” the brief states.

Nevada is joined by California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington in filing the brief.