Kentucky Politics

Staff with Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office will appear before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, arguing that he should have the right to defend an abortion law that has been struck down by lower courts.

At issue is a 2018 law passed by the Republican-led legislature that would have banned the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure—most commonly used for people seeking to end pregnancies in the second trimester.

A federal court struck it down in 2019, saying it would have created a “substantial obstacle” for Kentuckians seeking abortions.

Then-Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, appealed the ruling to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the court upheld the decision in 2020 and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear declined to take the case any further.

Cameron says he should be allowed to intervene and continue appealing the case.

“It is the role of the AG’s office to defend the laws of Kentucky, to exhaust all avenues. We are doing that, especially on pro-life issues,” Cameron said during a news conference last week.

The hearing won’t be about the merits of the abortion law, but about whether Cameron’s office has the right to defend it.

Cameron says he wants the case to be heard before a full-panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Initial rulings are handed down by three-judge panels.

The hearing comes after a federal judge temporarily blocked a controversial abortion law in Texas that would ban almost all abortions in the state after the sixth week of pregnancy.

Kentucky already bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, and legislators have passed several other anti-abortion measures that have been blocked, including a bill that bans the procedure once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—about the 6th week of pregnancy.

Republican leaders of the legislature have said that they hope a legal challenge to an anti-abortion measure could eventually be appealed to the Supreme Court and play a role in overturning Roe v. Wade, which bans states from restriction abortions before the fetus is viable.

Rep. Nancy Tate, a Republican from Brandenburg, voiced support for Cameron’s effort.

“It is time for the violence of abortion to stop, it is time for all abortion and all violence to stop in Kentucky and for us to be recognized as the defender of life and peace,” Tate said.

The Supreme Court hearing will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.