Louisville, Kentucky (CNN) Dona Wells vividly remembers when abortions were unlawful. When women had little choice after their contraceptive failed.
When most took their chances about dangerous abortions performed by amateurs as well as themselves.
That could become simple fact again in her home state of Kentucky.
“I think we’ve just come in a full circle,” said Wells, who worked at Kentucky’s initially recognized abortion clinic in 1974 — twelve months after Roe v. Wade legalized abortions nationwide.
Dona Wells co-founded EMW Women’s Surgical Center found in Louisville found in 1981. EMW is now the last abortion clinic in Kentucky.
Yet states in the united states have added considerably more restrictions on abortion gain access to and clinics. And one at a time, clinics have turn off beneath the weight of hefty restrictions, threats to doctors’ safety and violence.
In Kentucky, the only abortion clinic still standing is the EMW Women’s Surgical Middle in Louisville — co-founded by Wells in 1981. But the point out is threatening to shut it down, claiming zero its licensing paperwork.
That would make Kentucky the initially state without abortion clinics.
Now, a federal government district judge is taking into consideration if the state’s requirements are constitutional. And that decision could easily get appealed all the way up to the Supreme Courtroom — raising implications for girls nationwide.
The showdown at Kentucky’s last clinic
Sunlight is barely up this Saturday morning, and 24 women are heading to the EMW Women’s Surgical Middle for his or her abortions. They vary broadly by age and competition, arriving in cars which range from clunkers to extravagance vehicles.
As each female speedwalks to the front of the clinic, she faces a gauntlet of protesters keeping giant posters of aborted fetuses.
“Murder in the initial level!” one protester screams. Another pleads, “Honey, switch your brain. Darling, you don’t want to do this.”
David Street drove more than two time from Kentucky Mountain Bible University to confront the women with his sign: “Babies are murdered here.”
David Road demonstrates against abortion beyond your EMW Women’s Surgical Middle in Louisville.
“I don’t protest. I stand for lifestyle,” the theology professor says.
He doesn’t mind getting up at 3 a.m. for the 150-mile highway trip from Jackson to Louisville because he explained the progress is genuine: clinic after clinic is shutting down.
“There were five abortion mills found in Kentucky when we started back found in the early ’90s. And now god, the father has answered — here is the last remaining abortion mill, not only in Louisville, but also in Kentucky,” Road says.
“The conscience has been raised. Folks are embarrassed over the actual fact that sin and murder has truly gone on.”
‘You’re going to hell!’
A few yards from the protesters, Emory Williamson tries to disregard the vitriol hurled at him. As a volunteer escort, he functions as a shield between the protesters and people, helping ensure the women get to the clinic door safely.
“You are going to hell!” a protester once screamed as Williamson walked with a client. Another told escorts to avoid bowing down “to lesbian feminists.”
Williamson, who is bright white, says he was once called “a reincarnation of a plantation slave owner” after escorting a black few to the clinic. He’s also possessed his feet stomped on by protesters enough times that he previously to get steel-toe Timberland boots.
“They could literally press me on the ground,” he said. “But I’m never to react with any anger or any emotion, because that’s what they want.”
Emory Williamson volunteers as a patient escort beyond your EMW Women’s Surgical Middle.
The 31-year-old said he became an escort after hearing horror stories in what friends endured if they tried to walk into the clinic.
“I cannot even imagine what that is like. Especially just as a male, I cannot imagine what that is like,” Williamson said. “Hence many of them (protesters) are white men. I wish to be considered a voice of explanation on the other side.”
Williamson said he’s baffled by how often protesters invoke religious songs and prayers through the protests.
“They’ll sing the ‘Ave Maria’ song a lot, and they’ll do the Lord’s Prayer a lot. I grew up in the church, therefore I’m familiar with all of it,” he said.
“I just can’t suppose the Jesus I grew up with believing in that. The Jesus I grew up with will be walking with the client. I grew up understanding that Jesus was about compassion and like and understanding. He was constantly willing to be with those who might be working with hardships in lifestyle — and being able to constantly walk beside them.”
But the protests do create converts. Donna Durning is living proof of that.
She’s stood outdoors EMW clinic each morning, five days a week, for days gone by 21 years. The petite redhead offers brochures about abortion alternatives and clutches a decade-old image of a girl named Donisha — a tangible reminder of her achievement stopping abortions.
“I’ll show you one that’s been saved,” she explained, proudly holding up the photo. “This is my little namesake, Donisha. Isn’t that cute?”
Donna Durning holds a rosary and a counter to count the number of women who walk into the clinic.
She recalled the day Donisha’s parents found “the abortion mill” 18 years back, overwhelmed by the financial implications of having a fifth child.
“I talked to them, and I could take her to obtain a free ultrasound,” Durning said. “So when she observed that baby on the screen, heard its little heartbeat, she realized that she could not abort.”
Now, Durning’s 21-yr mission is only one abortion clinic from becoming simple fact in her state.
“I’d rejoice. I’d be very happy, because that means no more babies will be ripped apart and thrown in the garbage,” she said.
“I’ll stay until it closes — and then some. I’ll initiate a great big block party with the pro-lifers that want to come, and we’ll have a special event that they’ve closed.”
The dwindling number of abortion clinics
What’s occurring in Kentucky is representative of a nationwide trend: The number of abortion treatment centers is declining.
“Since 2014, there have been even more clinics that contain closed,” explained Rachel K. Jones, principal exploration scientist at the Guttmacher Institute.
Guttmacher defines abortion treatment centers as facilities where 1 / 2 or more of the patient visits are for abortion services. There are other treatment centers offering abortions, called nonspecialized treatment centers, but fewer than half of the patient visits there are for abortion services.
Abortion rights advocates state “TRAP” laws — or perhaps targeted regulation of abortion providers — have led to fewer abortion clinics.
“Some TRAP laws require that abortions come to be performed in far more challenging and expensive establishments than are necessary to ensure the provision of safe and sound procedures,” the Center for Reproductive Privileges said.
“These requirements may necessitate costly and unnecessary facility modifications, which might not even come to be feasible in existing establishments, or impose unnecessary staffing requirements that are costly or impossible to meet.”
Jones said there’s another concern: finding enough doctors willing to perform abortions. Since 1994, anti-abortion extremists have killed at least 11 doctors and attempted to eliminate 26 doctors, the National Abortion Federation explained. Arsonists have establish fire to at least 39 treatment centers, and several others have been bombed.
“If your physician retires, it could be difficult to find another physician who’s willing to dominate, potentially putting their lifestyle and the lives of their members of the family at risk — threat of harassment, threat of stigma and threat of violence,” she said.
Six states are actually right down to one abortion clinic — Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Demonstrators protest beyond your EMW Women’s Surgical Middle in Louisville.
Kentucky could become the initial with zero abortion treatment centers due to alleged shortcomings with the Louisville clinic’s “transfer contract.” Transfer agreements are created agreements between an abortion clinic and a hospital, saying a healthcare facility agrees to simply accept the clinic’s people in case of emergency.
Previously, the EMW Louisville clinic’s transfer agreement was signed by the head of a hospital’s obstetrics/gynecology department. But now, the point out says that signature isn’t good enough — the clinic needs the signature of a medical center president or CEO. Therefore far, no local medical center president nor CEO has decided to sign a transfer contract.
“The standards are simply outrageous,” explained Wells, who co-founded the EMW Louisville clinic.
Wells and other critics of the point out law state it’s unnecessary because federal government law requires emergency areas to simply accept anyone who turns up — with or without a “transfer contract.” They believe the restriction is really an attempt by Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration to remove abortion services in Kentucky.
But Doug Hogan, spokesman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health insurance and Family Solutions, said the regulations are about women’s health and safety.
“The Bevin Administration is working diligently to protect medical, welfare and lives of women in Kentucky,” Hogan said in a written statement.
“The statutory requirement for transfer agreements — that was enacted in 1998 rather than questioned for 19 years — is essential to ensure women get access to life-saving techniques in case of an emergency.”
When asked why EMW’s transfer agreements were considered enough in years past, but not this season, Hogan and a state health department spokeswoman did not react to multiple requests for comment.
Anti-abortion demonstrators protest beyond your EMW Women’s Surgical Middle in Louisville.
A federal judge is now considering whether needing a medical center transfer agreement — and a related ambulance transport agreement — are constitutional. Whichever way US District Judge Greg Stivers decides, the results could get appealed, probably to the Supreme Courtroom.
And that could have a chilling effect in the united states.
The growing pleas for help
The emails, calls, and texts rarely stop in Marcie Crim’s office. She’s the executive director of the Kentucky Wellbeing Justice Network, a non-revenue that helps Kentuckians pay for abortions and the related travel and leisure expenses — which keep rising as the number of clinics keep declining.
“Just today we bought a ($662) plane ticket to fly someone to New Mexico,” explained Crim, who became KHJN’s initial executive director this past year.
The group regularly helps fly clients to New Mexico because there, girls can get abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy. In Kentucky, abortions are legal until 20 weeks after fertilization or 22 weeks from the first day time of the last menstrual period
That limit could make a huge difference — especially since the results of genetic abnormality assessment might not keep coming back until well into the second trimester.
“The majority of folks who get a late-term abortion are for high-risk (cases) or for fetal abnormalities,” Crim said.
Those aren’t the just reasons for late-term abortions. In February, Crim helped fly another woman to New Mexico after she have been repeatedly raped by the same attacker.
“She finally determined she was pregnant. She didn’t understand what lengths along she was because she was raped repeatedly,” Crim said. The woman tried to receive an abortion at the EMW Louisville clinic, but was denied because it proved she was 24 weeks pregnant.
“So we flew her to New Mexico … that really was heartbreaking,” Crim explained. “We get cases of rape and incest more regularly than we’d like.”
Nearly all KHJN Support Fund clients are Kentuckians who can’t afford to get abortions within their own state due to “constant barriers,” Crim said.
One of those barriers is Kentucky’s 24-hour waiting around period — meaning a patient must consult with the clinic at least a day before the procedure.
It’s not a large deal for girls who work salaried jobs and can easily take time off work, get over the state and pay for a hotel throughout that waiting around period. But it’s a huge deal for hourly workers who have no sick times and do not even have a car to drive over the state to get to a clinic.
Kentucky does permit the 24-hour consultations to take place by videoconference, but that still doesn’t support rural, impoverished women, Crim said.
“We like to think everyone has high-speed access to the internet in their homes, but not everyone does,” she explained.
As the KHJN helps girls with transportation and lodging costs, the most typical obtain is for help spending money on the actual procedure.
About 95% of KHJN’s clients visit the lone clinic in Kentucky, where a medical abortion (for up to nine weeks of pregnancy) is $750. The cost of an abortion near to the legal limit is $2,050, Crim said.
And the necessity for KHJN’s school funding, which is funded by donors, would “skyrocket” if 100% of the customers had to go out of state, Crim said.
She recalled the haunting words of a 16-year-aged who couldn’t afford to travel and was denied an abortion in Kentucky because she was practically 23 weeks pregnant.
“Fine, I’ll just perform it myself,” Crim recalled the teen saying. “I’ve seemed it up online. I can do it myself.”
Crim’s agency were able to find the financing to help the girl get an abortion. But just as a woman who has already established an abortion herself, Crim explained she’s terrified of exactly what will happen if the EMW clinic shuts straight down.
“It makes me desire to cry,” she said. “It takes me to an psychological place, because of my own experience with abortion and attempting to put myself in the shoes of somebody who’s pregnant and scared and … feel just like they have absolutely no option.”
The options at A Woman’s Choice
Some abortion critics have actually had abortions — and they want to tell various other women it’s not the best choice.
“If I could go back and switch my decision, I’d,” said 36-year-older Nici, who asked that just her first brand be used.
“I chose abortion because I didn’t see any other way out. It seemed like my only option.”
Nici said she was first traumatized after getting a great abortion found in her early 20s. She now assists other women in similar situations.
She was about 23 when it happened.
Her boyfriend’s mother paid for the abortion. And for the next 10 years, Nici said, she experienced a horrific mix of guilt, shame, “frosty sweat nightmares and anger — just unexplainable anger.”
“It’s just a really dark location to maintain,” Nici said. “It’s all because I had taken that lifestyle, I severed that connection. And you feel it. You know. It isn’t just a glob of tissue. You will find a connection. I possibly could feel the heartbeat.”
Sherri Churchill’s mom forced her to have an abortion at get older 15. For almost all of the last three years, she said, the psychological trauma has been relentless.
“We had no thought what the side effects and the results will be after an abortion,” Churchill explained. “And what I understand now that I didn’t find out after that is abortion hurts girls. Abortion psychologically hurts girls. And I understand that for myself because I experienced it.”
Churchill said she tried to ease the soreness with medicines, alcohol and physical associations. “I was in incredibly, very unhealthy associations, and the drugs and alcohol was to products the soreness,” she said.
Now 48, Churchill is a counselor at A Woman’s Choice Resource Middle, which counsels women to choose alternatives to abortion.
Sherri Churchill said she just recently built peace with her mom, who forced her to have an abortion when she was 15.
The facility is right subsequent to Kentucky’s lone abortion clinic. A big sign in front side of A Woman’s Choice advertises free pregnancy assessment, pre- and post-abortion counseling and ultrasounds.
Given its brand and proximity to EMW, people might confuse A Woman’s Choice for the abortion clinic. That isn’t a coincidence.
“We’re definitely pro-lifestyle,” explained Monica Henderson, executive director of A Woman’s Choice and Necole’s Place — a sister facility that provides parenting classes and various other life skills courses.
Both facilities are merging this month under a new name, BsideU forever Pregnancy & Life Skills Middle. They’re growing to a new location, but will keep a facility subsequent to the abortion clinic.
“We located strategically in close proximity to EMW to ensure that women would know there’s another option,” Henderson said.
A Woman’s Choice Resource Center, right, has been located next to the EMW abortion clinic for seven years.
When one customer, Cassandra, walked right into a Woman’s Choice pregnant and panicked, she did not have the means to raise a child.
“I came in this article with nothing at all. I didn’t know how I was going to make it work,” said Cassandra, who just wanted to be recognized by her first brand.
“I didn’t have a couch to sit in when I was pregnant. I found A Woman’s Choice asking, ‘Do you all have a chair? Is it possible to get me a couch for my home?’ ”
Cassandra decided against having an abortion and needs other women to learn they are able to handle motherhood, too.
April Hickman was in a worse predicament — she was homeless when she went to a crisis room to take a pregnancy test.
A doctor broke the news: “You’re pregnant. Do you wish to be pregnant? … If you don’t, we have a tablet that you may take.”
Hickman said she considered it. But that evening, she possessed a dream about a little girl with a shiny smile. And the next morning, she went to A Woman’s Choice.
“When I got in for the orientation, it had been then simply that I decided I’m going to hold this baby,” Hickman explained. “I had taken parenting classes to figure out how to be a better parent. … I was scared of having this baby because I screwed up so very bad, and I was so scared. But everybody loved me when I emerged and desired wipes or Pampers.”
April Hickman was asked if she wanted an abortion when she was pregnant with Marlee, right. Marlee now has a 2-year-older sister, Michilee.
Hickman is now the mother of a 3-year-old girl, Marlee. Cassandra also offers a 3-year-older — a boy named Theodore, this means “a surprise from God.” Both moms, along with Nici, now help other girls at Necole’s Place.
“Coming here helped me enjoy being truly a mom even more because I understand I’m not alone,” Cassandra said. “The responsibility to be a mother isn’t all on my shoulders.”
Nici and Cassandra declined to say whether they wish Kentucky’s last abortion clinic to close. But Cassandra explained that outcome allows her to help more girls at Necole’s Place.
“I think we’d have more girls to aid,” she said. “And we’d have to get started on planning to support more people.”
‘It’s more prevalent than people believe’
Anna Collins, 32, is an effective business owner, homeowner and philanthropist. She says none of that would have been feasible if she hadn’t possessed an abortion.
Collins was twenty years old, working a “very low-level, non-skilled labor job” in a cafe. She made about $9 one hour — barely enough to support herself.
The financial stress was compounded by emotional stress when her boyfriend broke up with her. Shortly after that, she learned she was pregnant.
“We were using contraceptives. We weren’t intending to have a baby,” she said. “The thing that I can come up with is that the condom broke. We simply didn’t understand it.”
It took Collins several days before she decided to have an abortion.
Anna Collins said her abortion allowed her to finish massage therapy college and start her own business.
“The longer I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to provide a kid into this community that I couldn’t financially support, that I couldn’t emotionally support,” Collins said. “I’d certainly have had to go on government assistance at that time.”
So she went to the EMW clinic. And to this day, she says it had been among the finest decisions of her lifestyle.
“In the last 12 years, I am able to head to massage school, purchase a house, start my own organization,” she said. “I am able to donate my money and time to agencies that I believe in.”
Collins has housed friends who have fallen on hard times and regularly shelters rescue animals. She utilized to volunteer as an escort at the EMW clinic, but her massage therapy business does so well that she no longer has time to volunteer on Saturdays.
“I guess of all wonderful, beautiful points that I am able and fortunate to do in lifestyle, and I cannot imagine doing some of those with a kid — or especially having a kid before I could head to school,” she said.
Now, she concerns the freedom she loved is eroding. Collins explained she’s “ashamed” that her state could become the first without abortion clinics.
“I really like my country, I really like my state. I’d like Kentucky to be known for points that I’m proud of, and not to be the first point out to take accessibility to abortion from women,” she said.
In line with the Centers for Disease Control and Avoidance, more than 5,000 abortions occurred in Kentucky and more than 650,000 occurred nationwide in 2013, the latest available year of info.
The demographics may be surprising: Over fifty percent the women who get abortions are Catholic, mainline Protestant or evangelical Protestant , according to the Guttmacher Institute.
“I feel that it’s more prevalent than people believe,” Collins said. “And I feel that if people were more available to hearing personal testimonies, that they might realize how many people they know have had abortions. … If you haven’t possessed one, you know somebody who has. You merely don’t know that you know (them).”
They even include girls who have protested beyond your EMW abortion clinic. During her time as a clinic escort, Collins explained she was shocked to see a female who had usually protested walk into the clinic herself.
Collins said she didn’t judge.
“We walk everyone in only the same, whether we recognize them or not,” she said. “I’d like to think that made her understand that this is something that can happen to anybody.”
‘Shut it down’
Across the point out, in rural Warren County, Jennifer Fink sells clothes, furniture and appliances next to a gas station. With seven children, she’s had to receive imaginative about making ends meet.
Jennifer Fink and her boyfriend JayJay Wilson sell a few of Fink’s belongings found in Rockfield, Kentucky. (Holly Yan/CNN)
“I had to do what I had to do. I was a dancer for a little while,” she said. “You number it out. When you love ’em, and you’re a mom, you number it out.”
Fink knows how challenging motherhood can be, but she’s thrilled about the possibility her state could have no more abortion clinics.
“I think it’s awesome, because I’d consider it murder,” she said. “Shut it down.”
That shouldn’t end with Kentucky’s last clinic, she said. “I’d be happy if every one of them were gone, everywhere.”
While opinions have huge variations in both rural and urban elements of the point out, Fink’s sentiment is a basic one in southern Kentucky.
Fink said she knows contraceptives may fail — a few of her own pregnancies were unexpected — but that’s still no excuse for a great abortion.
“Don’t have sex if you cannot have a baby,” she said.
The possible end of an era
Before abortion was legalized nationwide in 1973, Dona Wells had been helping Kentuckians get abortions. She shuttled girls to the airport therefore they could fly to NY, where abortions were already legal.
Then, not long after Roe v. Wade, Wells started working as a counselor at Kentucky’s earliest accepted abortion clinic in 1974.
The demand for services was immense.
Dona Wells shows a model of the female reproductive system found in explaining abortion procedures.
“When I was at RELSCO (abortion clinic), we used to see about 400 patients per month,” said Wells, now 75. “We were the only people undertaking abortions in Louisville.”
The need was so extreme that new clinics popped up over the state. And over the next four years, Wells counseled a large number of women in several clinics.
“I’d say that I’ve probably … provided abortion services in this country as long or longer than anybody has,” she explained.
She retired from her role as executive director at the EMW Louisville clinic in 2006. The clinic still performs about 250 abortions per month — roughly half which are medical abortions.
Wells knows she doesn’t suit certain stereotypes about abortion rights activists. She’s a mom of two who never wanted to have an abortion herself. She grew up Southern Baptist and attended Baptist and Catholic colleges.
“I took a lot of theology and religion and philosophy in college,” she said. “I do still call myself Southern Baptist.”
But she said religion and abortion rights aren’t mutually exclusive.
“I guess here is the Christian thing to do. We are all put here upon this Earth to support one another,” Wells said. “And that’s what I’m undertaking. That’s my objective in life — to become a support system for whatever people need.”
Wells said when she co-founded the clinic found in 1981, “little did we realize that they were going to work out how to restrict (abortions) in a million various ways.”
Wells said Roe v. Wade doesn’t must be overturned to remove legal abortions in the united states. All it takes is more state restrictions.
“They’re trying to restrict it found in so many techniques you won’t be able to get an abortion,” she said. “You will see nobody — no treatment centers, no doctors, nobody to do abortions.”