Attorney General Ford Leads Multi-State Amicus Brief Protecting Women’s Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services

April 4, 2019

Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford led 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 reproductive healthcare 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 reproductive healthcare services in neighboring states does not excuse a state from the Constitution’s prohibition on unduly burdening a woman’s ability to access these services in her home state. Additionally, the brief urges the Court to ensure that regulations imposed on reproductive healthcare services actually promote women’s health without erecting substantial obstacles to the availability of these services.

    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 reproductive healthcare services harms neighboring states. Allowing this analysis could have unintended consequences on neighboring states whose demand for reproductive healthcare services could increase.

      “I’m proud to lead a multi-state effort to protect women’s access to healthcare services,” said AG Ford. “Today’s brief impacts states like Nevada because neighboring states could use our status as a state that allows reproductive healthcare services to restrict a woman’s constitutional right to these services in her own state.”

        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 reproductive healthcare 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.

            This amicus brief was led by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

              The filed brief is attached.