PPINK attorneys Laura Landenwich and Thomas Clay
PPINK attorneys Laura Landenwich and Thomas Clay

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky has hired the law firm of Clay Daniel Walton & Adams to defend the organization in the lawsuit filed by the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin, with attorney Thomas Clay describing the suit in a press conference as “a personal vendetta the governor has against a lawful operation.”

Shortly after PPINK announced its Louisville clinic started performing abortions last month, Bevin blasted the move as “illegal,” and the inspector general of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services ordered the clinic to cease and desist abortion services, as they did not yet have an abortion facility license. PPINK responded by releasing their correspondence with the previous inspector general, in which she clearly gave them the green light to proceed with those services, saying their application was complete and the license would only be given after an inspection of their facilities. The cabinet filed its lawsuit on Thursday, saying PPINK knew what the previous inspector general told them was false and seeking a fine of up to $570,000.

Clay said Friday that PPINK had followed all the proper procedures with the cabinet and that the Bevin administration’s accusations of fraud and deceit were “very troubling,” considering they already had clear evidence that PPINK followed the steps laid out by the former inspector general.

“Planned Parenthood acted with the upmost good faith,” said Clay. “Everything they did was transparent. They were communicating with the person who was authorized to issue a license on behalf of the commonwealth of Kentucky, and unfortunately that application process did not get completed prior to the change in the administration… the communications between (former Inspector General Maryellen Mynear) and the attorney for Planned Parenthood are pretty clear that they were doing everything they were supposed to do, everything that she said they should do, and then all of a sudden the game changed.”

Clay said what changed was that “Matt Bevin was sworn in as governor.”

“It appears that the governor has a personal agenda to do everything he can to thwart the operation of this abortion clinic, and that’s what this campaign appears to be: a personal vendetta the governor has against a lawful operation,” said Clay.

The lawsuit appears to concede the clinic only began providing abortions after receiving clearance to do so from Mynear, but alleges PPINK knew what Mynear was telling them was false, a claim Clay called “ridiculous.” He added that while they are considering a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, it may also be dismissed on procedural grounds.

“I’m not aware of the governor or his counsel ever filing a lawsuit on behalf of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services,” said Clay. “So there’s an issue as to whether that’s proper. There’s also an issue of whether the governor or his counsel can go out and seek to enforce a law when there may be a basis for the attorney general to do that… These are all things that just got dropped in our laps, literally today, so we’re going to spend a good bit of time trying to research the legal precedent for these issues and come up with an appropriate response.”

The office of Attorney General Andy Beshear is not commenting on the lawsuit, or whether the appropriate procedural steps were followed.

PPINK thought it was engaging in good faith negotiations with the Bevin administration when they claimed the written agreements with a hospital and EMS provider in their November application were deficient, Clay said, but it turned out the governor apparently had no interest “in trying to work with Planned Parenthood in order to resolve this license issue.”

PPINK recently turned in revised application documents at the request of the inspector general, which would mean the 30-day window to have the clinic inspected would occur in the next three weeks. However, Clay added that “at the risk of sounding as if there’s a crystal ball up here, we’re not optimistic that the application is going to be approved.”

Clay also made a point of mentioning how Bevin’s office sent out a press release at the same time as filing the lawsuit, which had identical language.

“This is kind of what the governor perceives as a bully pulpit, and he can get up and say pretty much whatever he wants to,” said Clay. “I thought it was interesting that the language in this press release pretty well pairs the language in the complaint. So it looks as if someone took the cautionary step of not having the governor make any hip shot comments about this at the risk of incurring liability for defamation.”

Clay — who recently represented Legislative Research Commission employees who had been sexually harassed in Frankfort — is the lead attorney for the case, along with Laura Landenwich, who was one of the attorneys in the Love v. Beshear case that made its way to the Supreme Court and led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Joe Sonka

Joe Sonka

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]