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Judge halts shutdown of last Kentucky abortion clinic

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Supporters rally against the shutdown of Kentucky's last abortion clinic. Supporters rally against the shutdown of Kentucky's last abortion clinic.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge has halted the impending shutdown of the only clinic in Kentucky that performs abortions.   

U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers issued a restraining order Friday that prevents Kentucky officials from revoking the license of the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville.   

Stivers said in his ruling that the clinic demonstrated its patients "would be immediately and irreparably harmed" without the court's order. The temporary restraining order expires in two weeks.   

The state has told the center it is out of compliance with state laws related to its agreements with a local hospital and ambulance service. The American Civil Liberties Union sued last week to halt the shutdown.   

A state official said Friday that the clinic's license wasn't immediately in jeopardy. The ACLU said in its lawsuit that the clinic had a deadline of April 3 to show compliance with state rules.   

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services "is surprised and disappointed the court entered a temporary restraining order without input from the cabinet and without first ascertaining the status of communications between both parties," said Doug Hogan, a spokesman for the state cabinet. Hogan said no decision on the clinic's status would be made until an administrative hearing is held.   

The state sent the EMW clinic a warning letter on March 13, which the ACLU said was "out of the blue."   

The ACLU has called the attempted enforcement action "an attempt to ban abortion in Kentucky." 

The civil rights group has pointed to "politically motivated" compliance enforcement in other states that have sought to close abortion clinics. Similar crackdowns over licensing regulations have occurred in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Wisconsin, according to the ACLU.   

Hogan said Friday the state officials will defend the requirements in state administrative proceedings and in federal court.   

Two other abortion sites in Kentucky, an EMW clinic in Lexington and a Planned Parenthood in Louisville, stopped performing abortions last year.

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