- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A Lexington abortion clinic embroiled in a licensing fight with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration since last year has decided to close, leaving Kentucky with one facility that performs abortions.

The decision by EMW Women’s Clinic in Lexington to shut down was announced by the Kentucky chapter of the National Organization for Women on its Facebook page late last week. The organization called it “very sad news” for Kentucky women and said the clinic had become “a permanent casualty” of Kentucky’s governor, who opposes abortion.

The clinic said it will close Jan. 27. Clinic officials said on the Facebook post that there’s “a chill wind blowing for the women of Kentucky.”

The Lexington clinic had tried for months to obtain a state license, and then the clinic’s landlord declined to renew the lease on property the facility had occupied since 1989, clinic officials said. The clinic has been closed since mid-2016 because of the licensing fight.

“For the past 6½ months we have diligently pursued obtaining a license to operate an abortion facility,” they said. “Although we and our attorney believed we had fulfilled all the requirements to obtain the license, the Inspector General of Kentucky disagreed and denied us the license.”

Bevin’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email Monday seeking comment. In his own weekend Facebook post to promote anti-abortion efforts, Bevin said: “It is an honor to be governor of a state that so overwhelmingly values the sanctity of life.”

The Lexington clinic’s closure leaves one abortion provider left in Kentucky - EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to be able to serve the state without any complications,” Anne Ahola, the Louisville clinic’s director, said in an interview Monday. “We are a licensed facility … and we just hope that we can continue to serve this state with a very necessary procedure.”

In another Facebook post, the National Organization for Women’s Kentucky chapter said the presence of just one abortion provider in such an expansive state is “unacceptable.”

“It will have a huge impact on low-income women across the state who are unable to afford transportation to Louisville and back,” the group said. “We must have access to safe, legal, affordable abortions without interference by the government.”

The Lexington clinic lost two crucial rounds last year when its licensing fight went to the courts.

Last June, the state Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that allowed the clinic to stay open after a legal challenge by Bevin’s administration. Two months later, the Kentucky Supreme Court turned down the clinic’s appeal.

Bevin’s administration contended the clinic performed abortions without a state license. The clinic’s owner countered that he was exempt from the licensure requirement because the clinic was a private physician’s office.

Abortion rights were in the spotlight during the state legislature’s opening week this month. Two measures backed by abortion opponents sped through the Republican-controlled House and Senate. Both were signed into law by Bevin and took effect after his signature.

One of the new laws requires doctors to perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion and display and describe the ultrasound images to pregnant women, even if the women avert their eyes, which is permissible. That measure already has drawn a court challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the ultrasound law violates privacy and First Amendment rights.

The other measure that cleared the legislature bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life is in danger. The ACLU has said it’s reviewing that law, but supporters of the ban created a “litigation fund” for the state to use in case of a court challenge.

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