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Court Documents Claim Bevin Used Pressure To Block License

Exterior of Planned Parenthood's Louisville health center.
Planned Parenthood's Kentucky centers remain open, providing care including wellness visits, birth control, emergency contraception and gender confirming hormone therapy. Planned Parenthood and EMW Women's Surgical Center are also helping patients connect with access to abortions in other states.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Planned Parenthood group says it uncovered documents showing Gov. Matt Bevin's administration used "fear and intimidation" to block it from getting a state license to provide abortions in Kentucky's largest city.

The allegations by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky — that political pressure kept it from getting approval to provide abortions in Louisville — surfaced in court briefs related to a lawsuit challenging the state's licensing of abortion clinics.

The socially conservative Bevin has called himself "unapologetically pro-life."

The Republican governor's spokeswoman, Amanda Stamper, said Thursday there was no such pressure from the governor's office. She said the allegations were untrue.

"Planned Parenthood's attempt to misconstrue the documents simply reflects its desire to divert attention from the weakness of its case," she said in a statement.

The regional Planned Parenthood organization is teaming with EMW Women's Surgical Center — the state's last abortion clinic — in the lawsuit targeting a state requirement that abortion clinics have transfer agreements with a hospital and an ambulance service in case of emergency.

In its court filing this week, Planned Parenthood said it had an agreement in early 2016 with University of Louisville Hospital to have patients treated in an emergency.

But the hospital abruptly canceled it a few weeks later, Planned Parenthood said in its brief.

The organization said the governor pressured the hospital into terminating the agreement by threatening to withhold funding from the hospital.

"Through the course of discovery, Planned Parenthood has uncovered evidence that seems to identify a major cause of University of Louisville's change of heart: Governor Bevin," Planned Parenthood said in its court filing.

Bevin's budget proposal in early 2016 included a section proposing to bar giving any public funds — state or federal — to any entity or organization that provides abortions.

That jeopardized millions of dollars in Medicaid funding that U of L Hospital uses to care for patients, Planned Parenthood said. That language was subsequently removed from the budget after U of L Hospital terminated the agreement, Planned Parenthood said.

Planned Parenthood claims the political pressure spread to include other local hospitals.

"Through a campaign of fear and intimidation, defendants have ensured that hospitals will never sign a transfer agreement with an abortion facility," its brief said.

Planned Parenthood said it also uncovered an email that indicated the transfer agreement between U of L Hospital and Planned Parenthood had "caused heartburn for Bevin."

Bevin's administration has continued to deny Planned Parenthood a license to provide abortions. In March, his administration took steps to try to revoke EMW's license, claiming it lacked the proper transfer agreement with a hospital.

EMW responded with its lawsuit, and a federal judge blocked the clinic's closure pending a trial that's scheduled to begin next week in Louisville.

EMW became the state's last abortion clinic after a Lexington facility embroiled in its own licensing fight with Bevin's administration announced in January that it had closed.

Stephen George is President and CEO of Louisville Public Media. Email Stephen at sgeorge@lpm.org.