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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General Donovan Joins Brief Protecting Women’s Access to Abortion Services

April 5, 2019

Contact: Eleanor Spottswood, Assistant Attorney General, 802-828-3171

Attorney General Donovan announced today that he joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to affirm a lower court’s finding about a Kentucky abortion law. The lower court found that the regulating abortion services is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The brief argues that the availability of abortion services in neighboring states does not excuse a state from the Constitution’s prohibition on unduly burdening a woman’s ability to access abortion services in her home state. Additionally, the brief urges the Court to ensure that regulations imposed on abortion services actually promote women’s health without erecting substantial obstacles to the availability of these services. In Vermont, Attorney General Donovan has actively supported the passage of an amendment to the Vermont constitution that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion and has worked to protect women’s access to preventative and reproductive healthcare services.

A copy of the brief can be found here.

The implications of this case for the women of Kentucky are particularly severe, as the law at issue would effectively eliminate the only abortion provider in the state. In their brief, the attorneys general further argue that allowing a state—like Kentucky—to rely on neighboring states for abortion services harms neighboring states. Allowing Kentucky’s analysis could have unintended consequences on neighboring states whose demand for abortion services could increase.

Plaintiff-Appellee EMW Women’s Surgical Center (EMW) is Kentucky’s only licensed abortion facility. While EMW has provided safe abortions since the 1980s, in 2017, Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services (Cabinet) notified EMW that its license to perform abortions had been renewed in error, citing alleged violations of Kentucky law. EMW filed suit in March 2017, with Planned Parenthood later intervening in the case. Planned Parenthood had been trying unsuccessfully to obtain an abortion license until the Cabinet abruptly informed the organization that its transfer and transport agreements with a hospital and ambulance company were allegedly “deficient.”

The District Court for the Western District of Kentucky ultimately agreed with EMW and Planned Parenthood, finding that the Kentucky law regarding transport and transfer agreement requirements imposed an undue burden on Kentucky women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to access abortion services. In response, the Cabinet appealed this decision last month in the federal courts, challenging the District Court’s findings. Today’s brief was filed in support of Planned Parenthood and EMW’s legal challenge.

Joining Attorney General Donovan in filing today’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

Last modified: April 5, 2019