By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - The last abortion clinic operating in Kentucky has sued a state health and family services agency, accusing it of retaliating against the clinic for another lawsuit and trying to use a technicality to shut the facility.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Louisville on Wednesday by the EMW Women's Surgical Center seeks an emergency restraining order that would block the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services from revoking its license.
"Their goal and the governor's goal is to make sure women in Kentucky can't have abortions, period full stop," attorney Donald Cox, who represents the clinic, said in an interview.
Representatives for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and for Governor Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican who took office in 2015, did not returns calls seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, the state agency sent the clinic a letter "out of the blue" on March 13 claiming its license renewal was in jeopardy because certain agreements with ambulance companies were out of compliance.
The letter threatened to shut down EMW Women's Surgical Center, Kentucky's sole operating abortion clinic, within 10 days if those agreements were not rectified.
The lawsuit called the action "deeply suspicious," saying it came after the clinic sued the state in January over a new law that would require women seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound and hear a description of the embryo or fetus. The lawsuit was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
That law, passed swiftly after Republicans gained majorities in the state legislature and signed by Bevin, is part of a renewed push by abortion opponents in the United States to restrict access to the procedure.
Some 25 states have laws regarding ultrasounds and abortions, but only three states require medical staff to display and describe the images, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit group focusing on health issues.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb)