Outside pressure, UofL backs down and abortion chess in Kentucky

The Abortion debate underscores that our healthcare system operates on three priorities: Making profits for not-for-profit hospitals, religious dogma — and actual medical care. Make no mistake, that is the order, and care is a distant third.

To be clear, that is not a criticism of any doctor, nurse or caretaker of any kind. They are the committed pawns on the healthcare chessboard. But that is the perfect imagery, right? While the pawns are out there fighting everyday battles with cancers, mental illnesses, ailments of all manner, childbirth and women’s reproductive health, the administrators, insurance companies and politicians are positioning around them for their battles.

That is why healthcare costs more in America than in any nation.

So let us consider the abortion debate in Kentucky: The Bevin administration is using all of its political and legal might to make abortions unavailable in Kentucky. It claims its argument is based on patient safety, but a closer look shows it is in support of a purely political agenda with ideologically conservative and religiously zealous motives — and is not about medical care or facts.

At issue is whether the EMW Women’s Surgical Center has the appropriate agreement with a hospital and ambulance company to transfer patients in an emergency.

The ACLU, which is defending the center, asserts that EMW had been operating under the existing transfer agreement with UofL since 2014 and with the ambulance provider for more than eight years. Also, all of the clinic’s doctors have admitting privileges at one or more acute-care hospitals within a mile. Plus, hospitals are already required by law to treat all patients in emergency situations, and Metro Louisville EMS will transport patients — so the rule is redundant.

The state claims that EMW’s agreement with the chairman of the UofL Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health is not good enough. It contends it must be made with “an authorized representative” of the hospital, later saying the “owner” needed to sign the agreement. To meet this new requirement, EMW obtained a signature from the interim president and CEO of University Medical Center, Ken Marshall, “but shortly after he signed it, Mr. Marshall asked that the amended agreement not be sent to the Cabinet,” according to the ACLU complaint.


The Bevin administration’s actions ignore that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly ruled that states cannot unduly burden, or outright block, women from accessing an abortion provider. That Gov. Matt Bevin would look for loopholes to subvert the law of the land exemplifies how he regards women’s health… secondary (or irrelevant) to his religious and political beliefs.

The Courier-Journal reported that another provider in Kentucky — Planned Parenthood — had suspended its abortion services while its license and transfer agreements were cleared up. The CJ story said, “University of Louisville Hospital last year backed out of a transfer agreement with Planned Parenthood to accept patients, citing outside pressure…”

Outside pressure? Like what appears to have happened with EMW?

Did the hospital administration fear political retribution from Frankfort — that Bevin and lawmakers from the Republican-controlled legislature would cut the budget of UofL hospital? The fact of the matter is: Outside pressure means pressure from outside the field of medicine.

And what did UofL do?

It caved. Twice.

This one story demonstrates how America does not prioritize healthcare when religious, financial or political interests are at play. So in a state with more than 2 million women, the last remaining provider of a vital medical service is not the priority.

A rally this past weekend brought over 100 people to support the women’s health clinic in downtown Louisville. Also present were anti-choice protesters. Their differences are not over facts or medical advice. No, the pro-choice side prioritizes privacy and the rights of women, while the other side prioritizes religious doctrine.

Nobody wins this battle.

Until we decide to prioritize medicine over money and religion, our healthcare will be mired in rising costs and battles over who gets care — until we empower physicians and scientists, and make insurance companies, politicians and priests the pawns.