In August, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld a Kentucky Court of Appeals ruling, creating further setbacks for women seeking an abortion in the state. The effort to reopen the EMW Women’s Clinic located in Lexington was denied over a licensing dispute with the State Cabinet for Health and Family Services. This makes EMW Women’s Surgical Clinic, in Louisville, the sole clinic remaining for all 120 counties in Kentucky.
This decision marks the second victory Kentucky’s vehemently anti-abortion Republican Governor Matt Bevin. The Governor’s general counsel had filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the Louisville’s Planned Parenthood regarding a licensing dispute which effectively stopped its provision of abortions. Although Planned Parenthood won the first round of the lawsuit, Bevin’s administration has appealed the decision and Planned Parenthood remains unable to offer abortion services.
Patricia Canon has been an escort at the EMW Women’s Surgical Clinic in Louisville for six years. She stressed she could not speak for the escort group as a whole, but spoke to us on her own behalf. While the Louisville and Lexington clinic were not directly affiliated, Canon expressed the dire impact of the Lexington clinic’s closing will have, and already is having. Now, some women must travel further to get an abortion and the harassment of patients at the clinic is exacerbating.
“When the first decision came down to close [the Lexington Clinic], we knew it was going to be bad,” Canon said. She states that since the verdict to close the Lexington clinic was finalized, Louisville is facing intense upsurges in threats, violent rhetoric, and blockading of its entrance by anti-choice protesters.
For example, the Saturday after the Kentucky Supreme Court decision was released over 100 protesters blocked the clinic, double the usual number.
Canon conducts weekly reports of anonymous surveys given to patients, assessing their experiences. The “weekly reports show that it is getting worse, more people are afraid, more people are being blocked….” Canon remarked that the anti-choice environment is becoming increasingly distressing for the patients.
“Every anti-abortion protester knows where to go, now that there is only one place to go” Canon explained.
Unfortunately, the only one place to go is a considerable distance from many parts of the state. Louisville is located in the upper Northern part of Kentucky. Many women cannot afford to take off work, hire a babysitter, or access the transportation means necessary for traveling the long distance to get to the clinic.
Patricia Canon voiced the terrific hardship the closure of the Lexington clinic has brought, but she remains determined to do all she can to fight for reproductive healthcare in Kentucky.