This is one in a series of profiles marking the 60th anniversary of the ACLU of Kentucky’s founding. Each week through December 2015 we will highlight the story of one member, client, case, board or staff member that has been an integral part of our organization’s rich history.
Dr. Sam Eubanks & Dr. Ernest Marshall
"Part of my nature is that every child should have a mother or father that wants them. My mother has had 13 pregnancies…I call it pseudo-slavery through reproduction.” -Dr. Ernest Marshall
The EMW Inc. abortion clinic was opened in Louisville in 1981 by four doctors who wanted more control over their business. Two of the doctors, the late Sam Eubanks and Ernest Marshall, had previously advocated for increased access to abortions as plaintiffs in lawsuits. Yet, anti-abortion laws were still being enacted. In order to protect itself from government restrictions on the procedures they could perform, EMW became licensed as an “outpatient surgical center.” When their status as an outpatient surgical center wasn’t enough to prevent government interference, EMW teamed with the ACLU of Kentucky to fight for greater access to abortions.
One such case was in 1994, when the Kentucky legislature placed greater restrictions on abortions by requiring parental or judicial consent for teenagers seeking abortions. The ACLU's efforts resulted in eased restrictions, yet more work is to be done to change attitudes and afford women full access to abortions.
Anti-abortion sentiments have manifested themselves outside the reach of the law. The life of an abortion clinic doctor is not an easy one. Doctors Eubanks and Marshall endured harassment from anti-abortion protestors, such as having their faces placed on anti-abortion flyers with their images in the cross hairs of a sniper's scope. For Dr. Eubanks and Dr. Marshall, opening and running EMW was an act of bravery, and its operation continues to be a signal that all women in need of high quality reproductive health care should have a place to receive it.
Despite the backlash they faced due to their work, the EMW doctors continued to provide women with access to abortions. From 1982 to 2000, the number of abortion clinics in the U.S. declined by more than one third, yet EMW kept its doors open, and also opened a Lexington clinic to increase access to safe, legal abortions outside of Louisville. For over 30 years, Dr. Marshall, Dr. Eubanks, and countless other doctors, nurses and social workers came together at EMW to ensure each woman could receive high quality healthcare with dignity and respect.