May 23, 2022

SCOTUS: Kentucky AG can intervene to defend law restricting abortions

In a stunning rebuke to pro-abortion Democrats in Kentucky, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the state’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, may defend legislation signed into law by a former governor, which bans live-dismemberment abortion procedures, even though the current governor has chosen not to, as CBS affiliate WLKY in Louisville reports.

By a vote of 8-1, the high court overruled a decision out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which prevented the attorney general from intervening in an underlying case to defend a statute abortion advocates argued essentially banned a common method of terminating pregnancies after the first trimester.

The controversy before the high court in this instance arose when previous Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin – a Republican – signed into law the Human Rights of Unborn Children Act, then-Attorney General Andrew Beshear – a Democrat – declined to defend it against a legal challenge, leaving responsibility for doing so to the state secretary of health and family services – an appointed member of the governor’s cabinet.

During the course of that litigation, Beshear was elected governor, Cameron was elected attorney general, and the new health and family services secretary refused to pursue a further defense of the litigation, in keeping with the new Democrat governor’s pro-abortion stance.

Cameron, for his part, sought to intervene in the case and defend the Kentucky statute, and though his bid was denied at the federal district and appeals court levels, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled otherwise.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito highlighted the constitutional separations that exist between the office of the attorney general in Kentucky and that of the governor.

“Our Constitution’ spli[t] the atom of sovereignty,'” Alito explained, citing prior precedent and adding, “[t]he Constitution limited but did not abolish the sovereign powers of the States, which retained ‘a residuary and inviolable sovereignty.” As such, he continued, “a State’s opportunity to defend its laws in federal court should not lightly be cut off.”

In response to the favorable ruling on his ability to intervene in the matter, Cameron said on Thursday, We will return to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and ask for reconsideration of its adverse ruling of House Bill 454. Now we cannot be sure exactly what the road ahead will look like, but you can count on us to continue to vigorously advocate for this law.”

Majorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony list, also expressed her gratitude for the outcome, saying, “We thank Attorney General Cameron for taking this fight all the way to the Supreme Court. We’re encouraged by this affirmation of the right of attorneys general to defend their states’ pro-life laws,” but whether success is ultimately achieved in this particular battle, only time will tell.

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