Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky attorneys Laura Landenwich and Thomas Clay
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky attorneys Laura Landenwich and Thomas Clay | Photo by Joe Sonka

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed a motion Tuesday in Jefferson Circuit Court to dismiss the lawsuit brought against it by the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin, arguing that their Louisville clinic broke no laws by performing abortions and his administration’s actions are a “political stunt” and a “jaw-dropping display of authoritarian hypocrisy.”

Both sides in the lawsuit appear to agree the Cabinet for Health and Family Services gave PPINK the green light to begin performing abortions at its Louisville clinic in early December, while Steve Beshear was still governor. At the time, that department’s inspector general clearly stated that an abortion facility license would only be granted after the clinic began operations and could pass an inspection. However, once IL reported that PPINK had begun performing abortions there in January as they awaited inspection, Gov. Bevin and his cabinet immediately denounced those abortions as “illegal” because they had not received a license and ordered the clinic to stop such procedures. The cabinet — represented by Bevin’s general counsel — filed the lawsuit against PPINK in February, seeking over $500,000 in fines for deliberately breaking state law.

PPINK’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit was written by their attorney Laura Landenwich, who stated that PPINK not only followed the letter and spirit of state law, but followed every directive asked of them by the department that issues abortion facility licenses. Instead, the motion counters that the cabinet “has side-stepped its statutory and administrative obligations, unilaterally changed the rules by which this process is guided, and declared violations of its newly-minted rules that predate their invention.”

While the Bevin administration claims a clinic cannot begin operations until it receives a license, PPINK counters that their interpretation of state regulations is off-base.

“The Cabinet’s revised reading of the regulation would require facilities to be fully staffed but not operating, with patients at the ready every day until the unannounced inspection,” wrote Landenwich. “That is an absurd result, and one that the Cabinet has never required of any medical facility. Instead, the practice has been to allow an interim period of operation, a defacto provisional license, during which the inspection is conducted.”

Landenwich further stated that not only does the complaint lack merit, but the cabinet lacks standing to file the lawsuit, as only the Kentucky attorney general can file such a lawsuit. She and fellow PPINK attorney Thomas Clay expanded on that point in a press conference Tuesday morning, saying the Bevin administration “went from zero to lawsuit without the intervening steps.”

“What Planned Parenthood is accused of is bypassing the regulations and the laws that govern the acquisition of a license to operate,” said Landenwich. “And what has in fact happened is that while Planned Parenthood was in full compliance with its efforts to provide safe abortions here in Kentucky, the administration has done what it’s accusing Planned Parenthood of doing, by bypassing all of the administrative processes, by filing the lawsuit without the input of the attorney general, who is required to bring the lawsuit.”

“Our information is that for years this is the exact procedure that’s been followed by the cabinet, and we have evidence from people – current and former employees of the cabinet – who are prepared to say that this is a practice that’s gone on as far back as the mid-70s,” said Clay of PPINK’s application process. “So for the Bevin administration to say this process is unprecedented simply is not true. And given the opportunity, we’re going to prove it’s not true.”

The attorneys also discussed the University of Louisville Hospital’s decision to withdraw its transfer agreement to accept patients from PPINK’s clinic due to “outside pressure” — though hospital officials still say they will take such patients — which will impede the clinic’s continuing effort to receive an abortion facility license from the state.

“The explanation that was given by the representative of University Hospital was that they were receiving extreme pressure from outside sources, including a legislator and somebody from the governor’s office,” said Clay. “We have not been made privy to that information, but that is the information we have about why University Hospital reneged on this agreement.”

Despite the Bevin administration’s claim that PPINK was brazenly putting women’s health at risk, Landenwich countered that this “salacious allegation” could not be further from the truth.

“(PPINK’s) mission is to provide safe, effective health care for the women of Kentucky,” said Landenwich. “That has always been their mission, and any allegations to the contrary is patently false… It’s important that women in Kentucky have access to safe abortions, and when they shut down these clinics, what will happen to those women and where will those procedures occur? We’re going back to an era that we don’t want to revisit.”

The Bevin administration recently filed a lawsuit to shut down the part-time EMW abortion clinic in Lexington for allegedly not having a proper license, leaving the EMW clinic in Louisville as the only current abortion provider in the state. Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto sent IL a statement arguing that PPINK’s motion “has no merit.”

“The only thing jaw-dropping about this case is the fact that Planned Parenthood performed abortions without the required emergency agreements in place to protect women,” wrote Ditto “The law is the law. Planned Parenthood does not dispute that it performed abortions without a license and without the required emergency agreements. These are clear violations of the law, and Planned Parenthood is desperately trying to distract attention from this fact.”

PPINK’s full motion to dismiss is below:

PPINK motion to dismiss

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]