Kentucky’s Republican attorney general should be allowed to continue to defend a state abortion law struck down as unconstitutional by lower courts after the state’s Democratic governor refused to do so, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an 8–1 decision on March 3.
Although Kentucky’s abortion law itself wasn’t at issue in the case, this is the court’s first opinion in an abortion-related case since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s addition to the bench in October 2020 gave its conservative wing a 6–3 majority.
The high court examined only whether Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron should be allowed to intervene in the case on behalf of his state after the trial court invalidated the law, and its decision was upheld by an appeals court.
Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, had refused to defend the statute in court.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit turned down Cameron’s request to take over state representation in the case.
The case revolves around Kentucky’s 2018 ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions on unborn children.
After the Supreme Court hearing, Cameron described the procedure as “gruesome,” adding that “it rips the baby apart.”
Then-Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed House Bill 454, the Human Rights of Unborn Children Act, which stopped such abortions after 11 weeks of pregnancy and was subsequently enjoined by federal courts.
Cameron welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling, calling it “a victory for the rule of law.”
“At every turn, we’ve maintained that Kentucky’s law banning live-dismemberment abortions is worth defending and should receive a full defense from the challenge brought by the ACLU and an abortion clinic,” Cameron said in a statement.
“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. This is a ruling that many in the commonwealth [of Kentucky] have hoped for, and we will proudly continue to carry the mantle for this important pro-life law by going back to the 6th Circuit and litigating the case.