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When Dona Wells, an original founder of the EMW abortion clinics in Kentucky, began pushing for abortion rights in her state in the 1960s, she never believed abortion care would become legal. She grew up in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, a small town in northern Kentucky that she describes as a Catholic bastion. The town had less than 17,000 residents, according to 1970 census data, and the idea of seeking an abortion in that environment was terrifying.

“I know what it was like to have a friend who had an illegal abortion in Louisville and went to the hospital because she had a complication and no one would attend to her,” Wells tells Bustle. “We saw illegal abortionists and these dirty places we heard about, and we just thought: That’s how it’s always going to be.”

In 1973, with the landmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, everything changed — not only in Kentucky, but across the country. Abortion was finally legalized, and Wells was thrilled. She eventually helped found the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, followed by the EMW Women’s Clinic in Lexington. By 1978, the state, a historically blue mecca in the South, was home to 17 abortion providers.

In the wake of Gov. Matt Bevin’s 2015 win (he became only the second Republican governor of the state in four decades), EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville is Kentucky’s last abortion provider. And, if the state has its way, it will soon be shuttering the clinic’s doors.

Dona Wells

Since taking office, Bevin, who calls himself “unapologetically pro-life,” has worked tirelessly to limit abortion access in the state. In January, after Republicans took control of the Kentucky House for the first time in 95 years, measures were passed that banned abortions after 20 weeks and required doctors to narrate the ultrasounds in detail, regardless of the women’s wishes. Bevin also blocked a Planned Parenthood clinic from performing abortions, and, after a lengthy legal battle with the state over licensing issues, EMW’s clinic in Lexington was forced to close earlier this year.

In the latest turn of events, the state threatened to revoke the Louisville clinic’s licensing in April after alleging EMW’s agreements with hospital and ambulance services contained technical deficiencies, even though the state had approved those same agreements when they renewed the clinic’s license in 2016. In a letter, EMW was notified that it’d be forced to close within 10 days if the demands weren’t met.

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“This was completely out of the blue,” Brigitte Amiri, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, tells Bustle. “The clinic is inspected on a regular basis, they had been inspected in the years prior, the agreements were in the possession of the government, and, nevertheless, EMW received this letter saying there were these deficiencies.”

The ACLU filed a lawsuit, EMW v. Glisson, aimed at blocking what they consider to be unnecessary and unconstitutional state laws. In April, a federal court issued an order that permitted EMW to remain open while the state challenges the clinic’s agreements with local hospital and ambulance services. The trial starts on Sept. 6 and the temporary restraining order will remain in effect until a final judgment is declared.

“So that’s really what this stems from, they say the wrong person at the hospital signed the transfer agreement. They are all these technical, nit-picky things to close the last clinic in Kentucky.”

Amiri says Kentucky’s case against the clinic is especially unconstitutional in light of last June’s Supreme Court case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which held that requiring business arrangements with a hospital serves no medical purpose and poses major harm for women. She considers the state’s stringent licensing requirements to be TRAP laws, or laws that single out abortion providers and impose requirements that are more burdensome than those imposed on other medical practices.

“Hospitals are already required by federal law to care for any emergency patient and stabilize her,” Amiri says. “There’s really no need for an agreement between an abortion clinic and a hospital to ensure proper patient care. And the burden on patients would be extreme — this is designed specifically to make it impossible or at least very difficult for women to access abortions.”

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However, the government still wants to revoke EMW’s license because their written agreement was signed by the head of the hospital’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health — and they claim it must be signed by someone higher up at the hospital.

“So that’s really what this stems from, they say the wrong person at the hospital signed the transfer agreement,” Amiri explains. “They are all these technical, nit-picky things to close the last clinic in Kentucky.”

Since its conception, EMW has consistently provided care for people across Kentucky. Wells says that, for instance, and in 2003, they saw 299 patients in March, 249 patients in April, and 254 patients in May of that year.

“And that’s just the book I happened to pull out!” she says with a laugh about the provided dates. “We were doing much more than that in the early days because women didn’t have good access to information.”

She says the state of abortion care in Kentucky is much worse today than it was in the 1970s. It’s one of seven states — along with North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, Wyoming, and West Virginia — with only one abortion provider.

Hillary Schneller, a staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights who is involved with their legal team in Mississippi, says that since the presidential election, anti-abortion protests have especially picked up speed. “[Protestors] have gotten more aggressive and persistent in a region where abortion is already incredibly restricted,” she tells Bustle. “To be one clinic in a very hostile state can feel very targeted and a focal point for protestors, and just a very difficult situation in which to operate.”

Louisville Clinic Escorts

From July 22 to 29, Operation Save America, a fundamentalist Christian conservative organization, will be holding disruptive protests in Louisville against EMW. On the group’s Facebook page, they stated:

Amiri says that the organization also held protests against EMW in May — and physically blockaded the doors to prevent patients from entering. “We in the reproductive rights movement have not seen clinic blockades like that for decades,” she says.

“They’re willing to sacrifice the lives of Kentuckians for their own religious and political beliefs and that’s extremely sad.”

Marcie Crim, the Executive Director of the Kentucky Health Justice Network, tells Bustle that the state of abortion in Kentucky is at emergency levels. But, and in spite of the hostile environment surrounding abortion, her organization continues to receive about 30 phone calls a week from people across the state who need assistance accessing abortion care. The organization helps transport patients to abortion clinics and provides funding when they can’t afford the procedure.

If EMW shuts down, she says they will be forced to transport Kentuckians out of state for abortions.

“Not everyone in the state of Kentucky who needs an abortion will find us. So, what’s going to happen to those people who don’t know there is assistance out there? I don’t know,” she says. “The people who are trying to pass these laws, they’re not thinking of what that actually means for Kentuckians. Either they don’t care or they just don’t even consider that fact that that means people will try to self-abort. They’re willing to sacrifice the lives of Kentuckians for their own religious and political beliefs and that’s extremely sad.”

Louisville Clinic Escorts

Wells remembers what life was like in the pre-Roe era. Sometimes, pregnant friends left town to give birth and place the child for adoption, she says. Other times, she says she drove young women to the airport to fly to New York for the procedure, since abortion was already legalized in that state. They boarded the planes, were picked up by vans upon arrival, and driven to far-off clinics, she tells Bustle. “Then they flew back on the plane just totally wiped out,” she says. “That’s just so unconscionable for anyone to have to go through that.”

Kentucky women had no control over their reproductive lives, and it was scary, she says.

“I grew up in a time when so frequently, because we didn’t have good access to information, people got pregnant and then they got married and I just thought that was so wrong for women not to have this option,” Wells says. “To say there’s no abortion in Kentucky, it’s just a total chilling effect for all of us who are pro-choice, all of us who are feminists, all of us who care about people. It would be like we’re going back to the 1800s.”


Not a single Republican opposed John Bush, who also mocked climate change and called for gagging Nancy Pelosi.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) helped usher Kentucky lawyer John Bush through the confirmation process.

WASHINGTON ― The Senate voted Thursday to put judge John Bush on a seat on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, despite Bush’s questionable past statements about abortion, slavery, climate change, health care and Nancy Pelosi.

Every Republican voted to confirm Bush, except for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who was absent. Every Democrat voted against him, except Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) who abstained. It’s a lifetime post.

Bush, a 52-year-old Kentucky lawyer, has drawn fire for comments he made on a blog he maintained for years under a pseudonym, G. Morris. Amid his hundreds of posts, Bush compared abortion to slavery, calling them “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” He also called for gagging then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosiapplauded critics of same-sex marriagemocked climate change and celebrated “the witch is dead” when he thought the Affordable Care Act might not be enacted.

Ahead of the vote for Bush, progressive groups teamed up to try to tank his confirmation. Twenty-seven LGBTQ rights groups wrote to senators urging them to reject Bush. NARAL Pro-Choice America ran ads on the online front pages of certain GOP senators’ hometown papers, urging them to oppose this “dangerous” nominee. They also sent supporters to Capitol Hill to deliver copies of Bush’s blog posts to GOP senators seen at potentially flippable, including Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

Bush’s confirmation is just the beginning for President Donald Trump, who is unbelievably well-positioned to revamp the nation’s federal courts. He inherited a whopping 108 court vacancies when he became president ― double what President Barack Obama inherited when he took office ― and, despite his knack for sabotaging his party’s agenda, has been quietly plowing ahead with sending conservative judicial nominees to the Senate.

Eight dollars can buy a latte for you and a colleague on your coffee break, or a salad at lunch; it can allow you to put a few gallons of gas in your car, or to bring home a fresh bouquet of flowers for the dining room table.

Eight dollars doesn’t seem like very much – but new research shows that it can mean a brighter, more empowered future for a woman in need of access to contraceptives and quality maternal care. Just-released data from the Guttmacher Institute found that meeting the global need for family planning and maternal and newborn health care in developing regions would cost just $8.39 per person per year. Imagine: less than $10 per person to fulfill the essential human right of a woman to plan her family and, if and when she is ready to have a baby, to give birth safely.

But this right is still not a reality for millions of girls and women. The report estimates that 214 million women in developing regions want to avoid pregnancy but – for a variety of reasons – are not using a modern method of contraception. These women with an “unmet need” for modern contraception account for 84% of all unintended pregnancies in developing regions. And, when pregnant, tens of millions of women in these regions do not receive the basic pregnancy and delivery care they need.

Of course, access to contraception and maternal and newborn health care are intricately connected, and the report found that meeting contraception needs alongside providing maternal and newborn care has the greatest impact on women and the greatest return on investment. In fact, every $1 spent on contraceptive services in developing regions saves $2.30 in maternal and newborn health care due to declines in unintended pregnancies – a 130% return.

But this $8.39 per person per year pays off in many non-financial, yet essential, ways, too. At the most basic level, it saves lives: Guttmacher estimates that in 2017, more than 300,000 women in developing countries will die from pregnancy-related causes, and 2.7 million babies will die in the first month of life. Most of these deaths could be prevented if women could plan for and space their pregnancies with access to contraception, and have quality maternal and newborn care if and when they choose to become pregnant. This investment would decrease maternal deaths to a quarter of current levels, newborn deaths to less than one-fifth of current levels, and unintended pregnancies, unplanned births, and induced abortions by roughly three quarters. It would also spur a ripple effect of social and economic benefits for women and their families, allowing them to stay in school longer, reach their potential in the workforce, plan and space their children, and break the cycle of poverty. It’s clear: If we want to reach the global Sustainable Development Goals, we must reach girls and women everywhere with quality reproductive health care.

“Meeting the need for family planning and pregnancy-related health care in developing regions will have a dramatic impact on the lives of millions of women and their families,” says Ann Starrs, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “Far too many women and newborns still lack access to these essential services.”

More investment by governments, donors, civil society, and individuals is needed to close this gap and break down barriers to quality reproductive health care. Only then can the reproductive health and rights of these 214 million girls and women be fulfilled. For less than the cost of a pizza, we can help a woman become empowered to pursue her hopes and dreams for the future.


Image captionSenators debated into the early hours of the morning

Senators in Chile have voted in favour of a proposal which would end the country’s total ban on abortions.

The measure would allow abortion in cases of rape, if the mother’s life was at risk or if the foetus would not survive the pregnancy.

Currently, women can be prosecuted if they have an abortion.

The bill, which has the backing of President Michelle Bachelet, will now go back to the Chamber of Deputies for approval.

Close vote

The proposal was first introduced two and a half years ago and has faced by stiff opposition from the Catholic Church and socially conservative groups.

Senators voted separately on each of the three cases in which women would be allowed to have an abortion:

  • The vote in favour of allowing abortion in cases in which the mother’s life is at risk was 20 in favour and 14 opposed
  • That of allowing a termination in cases where the foetus is unviable was 18 to 14
  • The closest result was for the vote on whether to allow abortions in cases of rape. Eighteen senators voted in favour and 16 against

The voting went late into the night and was further delayed when police had to remove abortion opponents who had interrupted proceedings with their chanting and shouts.

A demonstrator is detained by police officers after shouting slogans against abortion inside the Chilean congress during a session legislating a draft law which seeks to ease the country's strict abortion ban, in Valparaiso, Chile July 18, 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPolice had to forcibly remove disruptive protesters from the Senate

But on Twitter, a hashtag backing the bill was trending.

Supporters of the bill hope the Chamber of Deputies will now swiftly approve the document without further changes so it can be sent to President Bachelet for signing.

Changing Chile’s strict abortion laws has been one of the president’s main goals.

“I believe that women should have legally the possibility of making their own choices,” she told the BBC in an interview last year.

“In this country until now this is criminalised – if you interrupt your pregnancy, you will go to jail. And I believe this is not fair.”

But opposition to the move has been considerable and the debate surrounding it at times bitter.

Abortion in limited cases was legal in Chile until 1989, when it was completely banned under the rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.


Planned Parenthood is challenging Iowa’s abortion waiting period law — here’s why that matters
Planned Parenthood supporters rallying in Los Angeles, California.
Source: Mark Ralston/Getty Images

In a trial that begins MondayPlanned Parenthood of the Heartland is taking on a reproductive justice issue that could have national implications. The health care giant is partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the state of Iowa — alleging the three-day waiting period it imposes on abortion constitutes an undue burden on women seeking to end their pregnancies.

While 27 states enforce some mandatory wait time between abortion counseling and procedure, Iowa is one of six states — others include Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah — with a three-day waiting period. Iowa’s law would require a person seeking an abortion to make two appointments: One where the patient submits to an ultrasound and receives informational materials, and another three days later, when she undergoes the actual procedure.

In states with waiting periods like Iowa’s, the extra days don’t seem to sway women away from abortion — they only drive up its cost.

“This abortion restriction takes us back decades,” Suzanna de Baca, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President and CEO, said in a statement. “It is among the harshest in the nation and will strip access away from the most vulnerable women who need abortion care.”

“This proposed law puts women’s health at risk by forcing a woman to have an abortion later in pregnancy and risk her health solely for political — not medical — reasons.”

In early May, then-Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill introducing the 72-hour waiting period and limiting the legal window for abortion to 20 weeks, pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and pregnancies showing life-threatening fetal anomalies excepted.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU moved to block the law’s enforcement in early May, and if it goes into effect, it won’t do so until the case is decided. But Branstad, who recently resigned his post to accept a U.S. ambassadorship to China, had another parting gift for Iowans: He declined federal Medicaid funds for the state’s family planning program, striking another blow against Planned Parenthood of the Heartlands. The organization shuttered four of its 12 clinics June 30.

Protesting cutting Planned Parenthood’s federal funding

Source: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Despite the closures, Planned Parenthood remains the foremost reproductive health care provider in Iowa, particularly for low-income women and women living in remote areas. For them, having to make two trips is no small thing: Traveling longer distances to a clinic may mean taking time off work, and scraping together money for gas, meals and accommodations on top of the cost of the procedure. Many abortion patients already have children, which means they may need to find child care, as well.

“Especially in a rural state like Iowa, requiring a three-day waiting period and medically unjustified second visit makes it difficult for women who may have to drive hours to a health center,” ACLU-Iowa legal director Rita Bettis told the Des Moines Register in May, when her organization and Planned Parenthood filed their lawsuit.

The undue burden argument recalls the U.S. Supreme Court’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision from June 2016. That case struck down two provisions in Texas abortion law — the requirement that physicians maintain admitting privileges with a local hospital and the requirement that clinics meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers — on the basis that they posed no medical advantage, making the legal procedure unnecessarily difficult to access.

As Iowa Public Radio pointed out, a ruling issued in a district court is likely to face appeal in the Iowa Supreme Court. It’s impossible to know what the case’s trajectory could be from there, but if it were to make its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a decision in Planned Parenthood’s favor could have implications comparable to the Whole Woman’s Health decision, reinforcing abortion’s status as a safe and legal procedure that cannot be regulated without medically valid reason.

Bringing abortion in front of the Supreme Court is not without its risks, however: With the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench, President Donald Trump restored the court’s conservative bias. A ruling in Iowa’s favor would undercut Roe v. Wade’s provision that states cannot restrict abortion in the first and second trimesters unless the mother’s health is at risk.

But that’s all hypothetical for now. At the moment, Planned Parenthood is focused solely on advocating for Iowans’ health and choice. According to de Baca, though, Planned Parenthood “will continue to exhaust every avenue to fight back against these extreme legislative attacks on Iowa women.”


Laurie Field of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii said pregnant people who visit fake clinics are “walking into a trap.”

A Hawaii crisis pregnancy center (CPC) and a prominent anti-choice group are suing in federal court to block a new state lawrequiring anti-abortion clinics inform pregnant people of the availability of comprehensive family planning services.

A Place for Women in Waipio, a crisis pregnancy center, or fake clinic, and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) claim the law violates the facilities’ First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, according to a complaint filed last week.

Three years ago, a young pregnant woman was forced to send A Place for Women in Waipio a cease-and-desist letter to stop a clinic staff member from disclosing her personal information, as Rewire reported. After Morgen Trube visited A Place for Women for a free pregnancy test, a staff member at the facility offered Trube’s patient forms to Hawaii lawmakers. Trube testified in favor of the Hawaii legislation, and staff at A Place for Women argued that Trube hadn’t complained about the clinic at the time of her visit.

The Hawaii law requires “limited service pregnancy centers,” a category that includes fake clinics, to abide by state and federal patient privacy laws and provide information about state programs offering free and low-cost family planning services. Violators face fines of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 thereafter.

The Hawaii law is similar to a 2015 California crisis pregnancy center regulation that was found constitutional by a federal appellate panel. But the Hawaii measure goes a step further by giving pregnant people the right to sue fake clinics for up to $1,000 in damages. The law is also unique in addressing a reported issue with fake clinics: inaccurate ultrasounds performed by unqualified staff. In one case in California, a fake clinic staffer mistook an IUD for a fetus. The Hawaii law requires fake clinics to disclose to patients that “only ultrasounds performed by qualified healthcare professionals and read by licensed clinicians should be considered medical accurate.”

Hawaii’s Gov. David Ige (D) signed the measure last week after it cleared the state’s Democratic-majority legislature.

Laurie Field, Hawaii public affairs manager at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said pregnant people who visit fake clinics are “walking into a trap.”

“Thankfully, our elected officials recognized this and, in passing this law, ensured that everyone has access to accurate and private information about their bodies and their health care,” Field said in a statement.

State Sen. Laura Thielen (D), part of the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus, which submitted the legislation, said it was prompted by local reports of CPC staff sharing pregnant people’s personal information with outside parties.

We think we need some more investigation into what’s going on at the centers,” Thielen told Rewire earlier this year.

The measure was controversial, pitting health-care providers, who contend that fake clinics peddle anti-choice misinformation, against religious groups that argue the facilities are an exercise of their faith.

Fake clinics are typically religiously run nonprofits. Their staff are known to peddle mistruths and engage in moral arm-twisting to discourage people from ending their pregnancies. Peer-reviewed research and both federal and independent investigations have caught CPC staff dispensing unscientific information on the risks of abortion care.

In Hawaii, three “medical” and two non-medical fake clinics are members of NIFLA, according to the complaint. NIFLA was involved in at least one lawsuit brought to quash the California law, and in a suit to stop a similar measure in Illinois.

NIFLA’s president called the Hawaii measure a “bully bill” and said in a statement they expect to prevail before the U.S. Supreme Court.