Supreme Court Will Consider if Kentucky Attorney General can Defend Pro-Life Law

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, said that Monday’s announcement from the Supreme Court was “encouraging news.”

United States Supreme Court at dawn.
United States Supreme Court at dawn. (photo: Ian Hutchinson / Unsplash)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether Kentucky’s pro-life attorney general can defend the commonwealth’s law banning dismemberment abortions. 

The court announced it was granting one question of the petition for certiorari, in Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C. 

While Kentucky’s law concerns the legality of a second-trimester abortion procedure, the Supreme Court will not rule on the law itself. Instead, the court will only consider if the attorney general, a Republican who supports the law, can intervene to defend it in court. 

In 2018, Kentucky’s then-governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed the bill into law which banned the use of dilation and evacuation abortions, or “dismemberment” abortions. The bill was quickly challenged by an abortion clinic, and a federal judge agreed that the law was unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also found the bill to be unconstitutional. 

In 2019, Bevin lost in his reelection bid to Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat. Beshear and the state’s health secretary declined to challenge the Sixth Circuit’s decision, but newly-elected Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, moved to intervene to defend the law. 

The Sixth Circuit denied Cameron’s request to reconsider the law, and he then appealed to the Supreme Court saying that he, as the attorney general, had the right to defend the law even when other state officials did not wish to do so. 

While the Supreme Court could eventually consider the constitutionality of the 2018 law, the court would first have to rule that Cameron could intervene in the case; he would then have to make his case to the Sixth Circuit to reconsider its previous decision.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, said that Monday’s announcement from the Supreme Court was “encouraging news.” 

“We commend Attorney General Daniel Cameron for doing everything in his power to defend Kentucky’s pro-life laws, including its ban on barbaric live-dismemberment abortions, which was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Dannenfelser in a statement provided to CNA.  

“State legislators acting on the will of the people have both the duty and the right to protect their most vulnerable citizens – born and unborn. We look forward to seeing this right upheld,” she said.

In 2019, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal against Kentucky’s ultrasound requirement, allowing the bill to be implemented. That law required women to have access to an ultrasound before having an abortion.

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