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Constitutional Rights and the Public’s Health

EMW Women’s Surgical Center, et al. v. Friedlander, et. al.


EMW Women’s Surgical Center, et al. v. Friedlander, et. al. (U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, October 16, 2020): In a split decision, the Sixth Circuit voided an order based on a Kentucky law requiring certain abortion facilities to implement transfer agreements with local hospitals and transport agreements with ambulance services in case of patients’ medical complications. The lower court found these requirements unconstitutional, but the appellate court disagreed. It held that an abortion law could only be unconstitutional if the law lacked any legitimate purpose or presented a substantial obstacle to women seeking an abortion. The Sixth Circuit found that (1) the requirements were rationally related to the state’s legitimate interest in maternal health; and (2) there was no substantial obstacle absent evidence that the requirements would leave Kentucky without an abortion facility. In support of its latter finding, the court cited the law’s 90-day waiver provision allowing a facility to stay open if it had exhausted all reasonable efforts to obtain a transfer or transport agreement. Read the full decision here.  

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – December 1, 2020.

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