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Path Forward Unclear For Louisville Planned Parenthood's Abortion Services

The new Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Louisville.
The new Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Louisville.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky's leader is hopeful the organization can soon resume providing abortions at its downtown Louisville clinic.

The Planned Parenthood chapter began providing abortions at the recently opened Louisville facility on Jan. 21, but Gov. Matt Bevin's administration ordered it to ceaseproviding abortion services on Friday. The administration said Planned Parenthood's application for a license to perform abortions was deficient. The license was never formally issued.

What's not immediately clear is what may happen if Planned Parenthood resolves the issues in the application indicated by the Bevin administration.

Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the Planned Parenthood chapter will work to address the issues that Bevin administration has cited.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto did not immediately respond Monday afternoon to a question asking what the next steps would be if Planned Parenthood returns a sufficient application.

Before the Kentucky Office of Inspector General's stop order was issued, 23 abortions were performed at the downtown Louisville clinic.

In an interview with WFPL News, Cockrum said those abortions were not done illegally, contrary to statements last week from Bevin's office.

"We would never perform abortions illegally," she said.

Cockrum said Planned Parenthood began performing abortions after getting written approval in December from the then-state Inspector General, Maryellen Mynear.

At issue is the process for granting licenses for abortion services.

Under the procedure outlined by Mynear to Planned Parenthood, the organization would have to begin providing abortion services prior to being issued the license, according to emails provided to WFPL News by the health services organization. That's because an inspection of the facility would need to be conducted while the facility was operating.

The document would be issued following the inspection.

In a Dec. 1 email, Mynear told the Planned Parenthood chapter she recognized the "inherent conflict in this approach." She added it is the process by which the Office of Inspector General has historically operated.

"We were assured every step of the way that the guidance we had been given was consistent with Kentucky precedent and what we were doing was the right track to be on," Cockrum said.

She said officials with Planned Parenthood were "relentless" in questioning the inspector general's office to ensure they were doing what was necessary to obtain a license.

Mynear could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Cockrum said the Planned Parenthood chapter applied for a license to perform abortions on Nov. 19 and expected an inspector to make an unannounced visit within 30 days. But Cockrum said an inspector never came.

But Ditto said an inspector never came because Planned Parenthood's initial application was deficient.

Ditto said in an email Planned Parenthood failed to "have in place written agreement with an acute-care hospital and licensed ambulance company to provide fundamental emergency services if an abortion goes awry."

"Before an inspection can occur all of the contracts must first be in place in accordance with the law," Ditto noted.

Cockrum countered that. She said the submitted application contained "what we felt met the requirements for those two agreements."

She also said the state statue regulating the license application process is too ambiguous regarding what is required.

"And when we asked specifically, 'Could you give us a template, could you give us language,' none of that was forthcoming," she said. "In part because this isn't a process that's part of the daily conduct of state government here."

Ditto also said Mynear and the Office of the Inspector General under former Gov. Steve Beshear failed to conduct a proper review of the Planned Parenthood chapter's application and "ignored the plain language of a statute and advised Planned Parenthood that it could perform unlicensed abortions."

Cockrum said she believes the state office had been "acting in good faith."

"And responding in a manner that's consistent with what's typically done," she added.

Bevin has previously voiced his opposition to abortion rights, and Cockrum said his recent action fortifies his stance.

But Cockrum said women have a right to have an abortion.

"And I think people should be supportive of women having access to safe and legal abortions without undue burden," she said.

She said the organization won't immediately look to take legal action against the state regarding the service provider's right to perform abortions.

She said legal action will be considered "if we reach a point where it feels like that's the best path for us to ensure we can provide our full range of services."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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