Posted by on October 12, 2021 3:02 pm
Categories: News Washington Examiner

Supreme Court considers whether Kentucky attorney general can defend state abortion law

The Supreme Court is seen on the first day of the new term, in Washington, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Supreme Court considers whether Kentucky attorney general can defend state abortion law

Kate Scanlon October 12, 02:53 PMOctober 12, 02:53 PM

The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, a case concerning whether Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has the jurisdiction to defend a state law restricting a type of abortion procedure.

Although the court is mired in controversy over the issue of abortion as it prepares to hear a case later this year about a Mississippi state law that could prompt it to reconsider or scale back its Roe v. Wade decision, little discussion in the courtroom Tuesday actually centered on abortion. Instead, talk focused on whether Cameron can defend a state law restricting the procedure.


In 2018, then-Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed a law, H.B. 454, prohibiting a type of abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, used in the second trimester. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, a Louisville abortion provider, promptly challenged that law in court, arguing that it affected abortions that take place before fetal viability.

A federal judge blocked the law as unconstitutional in 2019, a decision upheld by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Kentucky, which had since elected Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, stopped defending the law.

Cameron, a Republican elected alongside Beshear, later asked the full 6th Circuit to revisit the case, a request they declined, saying Cameron’s attempted intervention came too late in the process. Cameron then appealed to the Supreme Court.

During oral arguments, Justice Stephen Breyer noted that “there have been a lot of party changes” in Kentucky.

“First, the Republicans are in, then the Democrats are in, and they have different views on an abortion statute,” Breyer said.

“Why can’t he just come in and defend the law?” Breyer asked at one point, adding Cameron may still lose his argument if given the opportunity to defend the law, as two lower courts rejected it.

Cameron told the Washington Examiner that the case is about “state sovereignty.”

“This is really what this case is about, is our ability to defend and exhaust all appeal avenues as it relates to House Bill 454 and any law for that matter,” Cameron said.

Cameron said the attorney general’s office should be a “failsafe in defending the laws of the commonwealth,” regardless of the actions of other state government entities.

“We feel good about how we left things in the chamber and are optimistic that when all is said and done, we’ll have an opportunity to go back to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and defend House Bill 454,” Cameron said.

Kentucky Deputy Solicitor General Matthew Kuhn, who argued the case, told the Washington Examiner that it would be “deeply concerning” for a federal court to block a state from defending its laws.

“It’s clear they understood why we think this matters,” Kuhn said. “That’s the most you can hope for.”

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and counsel arguing on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, said in a statement that “Enough is enough.”

“Two courts already held that this law violates the rights of Kentuckians,” Kolbi-Molinas said.

“The Supreme Court ought to put an end to the attorney general’s attempts to force people to continue their pregnancies against their will. Politicians across the country are using every tool in the shed to push abortion further and further out of reach, and as the situation in Texas vividly demonstrates, they won’t stop trying until they have succeeded in taking the decision about whether to continue a pregnancy away completely.”

Kolbi-Molinas further argued that “With the precedent established by Roe up for grabs in the Supreme Court this year, the right to get an abortion for people across the country is in real jeopardy. We won’t stop fighting until all of us can access the essential reproductive healthcare we need, regardless of where we live or how much we make.”


Dr. Ernest Marshall, owner of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, said in a statement that “We have been proud to deliver high-quality, compassionate care to our patients for more than four decades, and will do everything in our power to continue doing so.”

© 2021 Washington Examiner

Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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