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BREAKING: Supreme Court to review Kentucky AG’s power to defend pro-life laws

While the case will not set precedent for abortion law itself, it will have ramifications for how much discretion attorneys general of one party have in states where the other party occupies the governor’s mansion. Meanwhile, the Court still hasn't announced whether it will hear a case on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban.
Mon Mar 29, 2021 - 11:03 am EST
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WASHINGTON, D.C., March 29, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – The United States Supreme Court announced Monday it will be intervening in the case of Kentucky’s ban on an abortion procedure that dismembers children in the second trimester, specifically the question of whether the state’s attorney general has the authority to intervene to defend such laws.

In 2018, former Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed HB 454 into law, which bans the dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedure. D&Es are more commonly known as “dismemberment abortions” because they function by tearing a preborn baby apart limb by limb. Bevin has since been replaced by pro-abortion Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear, but Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron is pro-life and committed to upholding the state’s pro-life laws.

In 2019, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the law an “undue burden” on “all of the individuals it restricts” and denied Cameron’s request to defend the law after Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) Eric Friedlander chose not to appeal the case. 

“The threats to these sovereign interests are particularly acute in this case,” argued a brief to the Supreme Court filed by 20 states on Cameron’s behalf. “The Sixth Circuit panel majority deprived the Commonwealth of Kentucky from seeking complete appellate review of the District Court’s injunction invalidating one of its duly enacted laws. And it did so on purely procedural grounds, holding that the Kentucky Attorney General could not intervene to vindicate state law on appeal because a single state officer had decided to abandon defense of a law passed by both houses of its Legislature and signed into law by its Governor.”

On Monday, the Supreme Court published its latest order list, confirming that it will be hearing arguments in Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C., albeit “limited to Question 1 presented by the petition,” i.e., the question of “Whether a state attorney general vested with the power to defend state law should be permitted to intervene after a federal court of appeals invalidates a state statute when no other state actor will defend the law.” 

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So while the case will not set precedent for abortion law itself, it will have ramifications for how much discretion attorneys general of one party have in states where the other party occupies the governor’s mansion. In February, the Kentucky legislature enacted a law over Beshear’s veto empowering the attorney general to enforce abortion restrictions independent of the governor’s office.

Pro-abortion activists have objected to the “dismemberment” label as inflammatory and misleading, but the abortion industry itself has effectively admitted its accuracy. The National Abortion Federation’s own instructional materials describe dismemberment abortions as “grasping a fetal part,” then “withdraw[ing] the forceps while gently rotating it” to achieve “separation.”

Defenders also claim dismemberment abortions are the safest second-trimester procedure available (for the mother), but pro-lifers suspect abortionists actually prefer D&E abortions because they can fit more into their schedule, and therefore make more money.

As to the merits of rulings against such laws, supporters note that in 2000’s Stenberg v. Carhart, the pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens admitted that partial-birth abortion and dismemberment abortion were “equally gruesome,” and that it was “simply irrational” to conclude that one was “more akin to infanticide than the other.” Stenberg struck down the federal partial-birth abortion ban, but Gonzales v. Carhart ultimately upheld it in 2007.

The Supreme Court has yet to announce whether it will hear a case on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. It has delayed announcing its decision on whether to hear that case for months now.


  cameron v. emw women’s surgical center, p.s.c., daniel cameron, dismemberment abortion, dismemberment abortion ban, kentucky, pro-life laws, supreme court

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