'I'm relieved': KY clinic doctor reacts to resumption of abortions

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Posted at 11:52 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 23:57:12-04

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Abortion services can resume in Kentucky following Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry's decision to grant a temporary restraining order that blocks the enforcement of two abortion bans.

The ACLU of Kentucky and Planned Parenthood requested a temporary restraining order after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade triggered a 2019 Kentucky law that puts an outright ban on abortion. The plaintiffs argued that privacy rights outlined in Kentucky's state constitution extend to abortion rights.

"I'm relieved," said Dr. Marjorie Fitzgerald, M.D., an anesthesiologist at EMW Women's Surgical Center, one of two clinics that provide abortion services in Kentucky.

Dr. Fitzgerald said EMW will resume abortion services Friday. She expects the clinic to be busy both inside and outside, where anti-abortion protesters have been known to gather.

"I see the patients and review their vital signs right after they've come into the building," Dr. Fitzgerald said. "And sometimes I see such a stress response. A heart rate of 120, high blood pressure, because they've literally gone through a gamut of people yelling at them."

Dr. Fitzgerald said the "reproductive reality" is that women will continue to seek abortions, whether the procedure is legal in Kentucky or not.

"What concerns me is without this service, women will be seeking illegal procedures, unsafe procedures," Dr. Fitzgerald said. "[Before Roe] I took care of patients who actually had sepsis because they had illegal procedures."

Dr. Fitzgerald said she was on her way into work last Friday when SCOTUS issued its ruling. Her colleagues told women at the clinic they had to go home.

"Patients were in tears," Dr. Fitzgerald was told. "They were angry, confused, desperate."

The plaintiffs and defendants will be back in a courtroom next Wednesday when a judge will decide whether to grant an injunction. If granted, abortion will remain legal throughout the litigation process.

"[Today's ruling] really is sort of a bridge that has put care back in place for now," explained Amber Duke, interim executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky.

Dr. Fitzgerald said she would continue to report to work at EMW until a directive from a court tells her otherwise.

"I think we all took for granted that we would always have reproductive rights," Dr. Fitzgerald said. "That no longer exists. And for many women, this is a wake-up call they never thought they'd see- including myself.