The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from Kentucky's attorney general, who wants to be allowed to defend his state's restriction on dismemberment abortions that lower courts had struck down and the state's Democrat governor had dismissed.
The high court issued an order agreeing to hear the case of Cameron v. EMW Women's Surgical Center.
The underlying issue in the case, to be heard in the fall, is a blocked Kentucky law that would have effectively banned a standard abortion method in the second trimester of pregnancy.
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But the issue before the court is whether Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, can intervene in the case, after rulings from a trial court and appellate panel, as well as Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's decision to drop the case.
The law, known as The Human Rights of Unborn Children Act (H.B. 454) was adopted in 2018, when Republican Matt Bevin was governor. Following a lawsuit by abortion providers, a trial court permanently blocked the law, finding it would have made it impossible to perform the abortion procedure known as dilation and extraction. A panel of judges at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in a 2 to 1 decision last June.
Five days later, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to strike down an unrelated Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics. But Cameron, who became Kentucky's attorney general in 2019, said the reasoning used by the high court called into question the ruling against his state's law.
The appeals court, however, rejected his efforts to intervene, prompting his appeal to the Supreme Court.
"I promised Kentuckians that I would defend our laws all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and that's what we've done," Cameron said in a statement.
"Since day one in office, we've fought to defend House Bill 454, even when the Beshear Administration refused to defend it. This law reflects the conscience of Kentucky by banning the gruesome practice of live dismemberment abortions, and it's important that Kentuckians have a voice before our nation's highest court. I was elected to provide that voice, and we look forward to making our case to the Supreme Court," Cameron continued.
The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the abortion clinic that had sued over the law, had urged the court to stay out of the case.
"This case is only about whether the Attorney General, after having sat on the sidelines of this lawsuit, can jump in at the last minute in an effort to revive an unconstitutional law," ACLU lawyer Andrew Beck said in a statement.
In February, Kentucky's Republican-led legislature gave Cameron the power to seek civil and criminal penalties for any violation of Kentucky's abortion laws. Beshear had initially vetoed the measure.
The Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life group, praised the high court for taking up the abortion case, and for Cameron's leadership in the fight for the unborn.
"It is encouraging news that the Supreme Court will hear this case," said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. "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. 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."
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