Judge hears day 2 testimony in battle between Bevin and abortion clinics

Updated: Sep. 7, 2017 at 9:32 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Tuesday marked the second day of testimony in a landmark trial that could decide the future of abortion in Kentucky.

Governor Matt Bevin's office is squaring off against the state's last abortion clinic, EMW Women's Surgical Center, in federal court.

At issue is the state's requirement for a transfer agreement between the clinic and a hospital and ambulance service. The outcome of the trial could determine how tightly abortion clinics will be controlled in Kentucky, if they exist at all.

Attorneys for EMW and Planned Parenthood spent day two of the trial trying to show the Bevin administration's reasons for enforcing the transfer agreements were political, not medical.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Battle over Kentucky's last abortion clinic begins in federal court

They focused on two license denial letters from the state to Planned Parenthood, one in January 2016 and another in September 2016. Both showed different lists of reasons for denying the permit.

Attorneys asked State Inspector General Robert Silverthorne if the state's medical expert who testified at Planned Parenthood's appeal opposed abortion. Silverthorne admitted that expert had faith-based opposition to abortion.

Steve Pitt, the governor's general counsel, was quick to dismiss that argument.

"As we said all along that argument is bogus," Attorney Steve Pitt said. "The testimony presented in the court room has absolutely no political or religious connotation here this is a question of women's safety and health."

In an attempt to show that a woman who wants an abortion can still get one even if EMW closes, the state presented mileage data maps showing many surrounding cities with abortion clinics within driving distance.

Silverthorne testified after making calls to those clinics, women in Kentucky will not have to drive more than 150 miles to find an abortion out of state.

But on cross-examination by EMW Attorney Don Cox, Silverthorne admitted he did not make the calls himself, saying "being a male it was easier to have a female make the call."

Silverthorne also said many of the clinics were only open two to three days a week. He testified he did not know the cost or wait times.

"It's like watching Alice in Wonderland, the logic being used by the Commonwealth to limit the availability of abortion here in Louisville," Dr. Peter Hasselbacher with the Kentucky Health Policy Institute said. "Makes no sense to me medically."

Planned Parenthood attorneys also called back Stephanie Holt, a former acting inspector general. She testified of all the state license applications, Planned Parenthood's application was the only one she discussed with Bevin's attorney.

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But on cross-examination by the defense she said that was because she was inexperienced on transfer agreements.

"We were told that they had received questions that caused them to have concern about their funding buckets from the state," Planned Parenthood representative Kimberly Greene said.

The state hopes to present its case Friday, calling forth its strongest witnesses including an expert who will testify about the need of transfer agreements.

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