On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would consider the case Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which centers on Kentucky’s ban on dismemberment abortions, also known as dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions. The Court is not likely to weigh the merits of the purported constitutional “right” to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade (1973) and later cases, however.
In April 2018, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed H.B. 454 into law, banning any practice that involves “the bodily dismemberment, crushing, or human vivisection of the unborn child.” Yet after Bevin lost his reelection campaign in 2018, his successor, Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, did not direct his administration to keep defending H.B. 454. Beshear’s health secretary did defend the law until the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction against it.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) attempted to defend the law himself, but the Sixth Circuit did not allow him to represent the state in court. The Supreme Court will take up the question of whether or not Cameron can defend the law when the Beshear administration will not.
“I promised Kentuckians that I would defend our laws all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and that’s what we’ve done,” Cameron said in a statement on Monday. “Since day one in office, we’ve fought to defend House Bill 454, even when the Beshear Administration refused to defend it.”
“This law reflects the conscience of Kentucky by banning the gruesome practice of live dismemberment abortions, and it’s important that Kentuckians have a voice before our nation’s highest court. I was elected to provide that voice, and we look forward to making our case to the Supreme Court,” Cameron added.
As Cameron noted in his petition asking the Supreme Court to take up the case, the Kentucky health secretary’s office actually hired lawyers from the attorney general’s office to defend H.B. 454 during the two-year litigation over the law. “After the Sixth Circuit upheld the permanent injunction against Kentucky’s law by a divided vote, the Secretary decided not to appeal further.”
Within two days of learning the Beshear administration would not appeal the case, Cameron moved to intervene in the case and continue defending H.B. 454. The Sixth Circuit ruled that Cameron should have moved to intervene earlier, even though his office had been representing the secretary of health. Even then, one of the panelists on the Sixth Circuit dissented from the decision to bar Cameron from defending the law.
While this particular case is unlikely to make much of an impact on the abortion issue, the Supreme Court may allow Cameron to keep defending the law, and that may enable Kentucky to implement its ban on “the bodily dismemberment, crushing, or human vivisection of the unborn child.” That would be a significant victory.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, called the Court’s decision to take up the case “encouraging news.”
“We commend Attorney General Daniel Cameron for doing everything in his power to defend Kentucky’s pro-life laws, including its ban on barbaric live-dismemberment abortions, which was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support,” Dannenfelser said. “State legislators acting on the will of the people have both the duty and the right to protect their most vulnerable citizens – born and unborn. We look forward to seeing this right upheld.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.