April 5, 2019 | Office of Attorney General Keith Ellison

Press Release

Attorney General Ellison joins multi-state effort to protect women’s access to reproductive health

In amicus brief, asks 6th Circuit to uphold lower court finding that Kentucky law is unconstitutional

April 5, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — Attorney General Ellison has 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 that a Kentucky law regulating abortion services is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The brief, led by Nevada Attorney General Ford, 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 their brief, the attorneys general further argue that allowing any state to limit reproductive-health services by relying on neighboring states to provide them would have unintended consequences and harm neighboring states. 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.

“What happens to the women of Kentucky matters to the women of Minnesota,” Attorney General Ellison said. “Protecting access to comprehensive and affordable reproductive-health services as close to home as possible is one way we help women afford their lives and live with dignity and respect. I joined this coalition because the potential implications on the women of Minnesota, and all Minnesotans, are disruptive and dangerous.”

Background

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.

The amicus brief was led by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford. In addition to Attorney General Ellison, the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington joined the brief. A copy of the brief is available on the website of Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford.