SCOTUS: Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to Argue AGs Have Power to Defend Pro-Life Laws in Court

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 25: Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron stands on stage in an empty Mellon Auditorium while addressing the Republican National Convention on August 25, 2020 in Washington, DC. The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced the Republican Party to move away from an in-person convention to a televised …
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Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron will argue his office’s ability to defend a state pro-life law before the U.S. Supreme Court October 12.

The question before the Court is, when a state law is being challenged, and the state official who would normally defend the law refuses to do so – in this case because the current Kentucky governor, Andy Beshear, is a pro-abortion rights Democrat – whether a state attorney general always has the prerogative to step in to defend the state law in court.

Cameron said in a statement:

Three years ago, the General Assembly passed HB 454 in recognition of the humanity of the unborn, and we’ve proudly defended it since taking office. Kentuckians elected me to represent the Commonwealth’s interests in court, and next week we look forward to arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court for our ability to continue defending this important pro-life law.

The original case focused on HB 454, also known as the Human Rights of Unborn Children Act, which would “prohibit an abortion on a pregnant woman that will result in the bodily dismemberment, crushing, or human vivisection of the unborn child when the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child is 11 weeks or greater, except in the case of a medical emergency.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately filed a lawsuit against the legislation on behalf of abortion providers.

Cameron’s office explained further:

In 2019, a federal judge struck down the law, and the case was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. After taking office in December 2019, Attorney General Cameron defended the law before the Sixth Circuit on behalf of newly elected Governor Andy Beshear, and the Sixth Circuit ruled against the law in a divided vote.

After Governor Beshear declined to continue defending House Bill 454, Attorney General Cameron filed a motion to intervene in the case. When the Sixth Circuit denied the motion, Attorney General Cameron asked the United States Supreme Court to hear the case.

The introduction to the case states:

This case began as a challenge to a Kentucky statute regulating abortion, but it is now a dispute about a State’s authority to ensure that its laws are fully defended through this Court. In our dual-sovereign system of government, the States have a substantial interest in enforcing their laws. In recognition of this fact, the States get to decide for themselves who defends their laws in court.

Under Kentucky law, Attorney General Daniel Cameron has not only the power, but also the duty, to defend Kentucky’s laws against legal challenge … And when another state official declines to appeal an adverse ruling, Kentucky law empowers the Attorney General to step in and continue defending state law on appeal.

The ACLU of Kentucky accused Cameron of trying to “relitigate” the abortion case:

Despite the state agreeing to comply with the court’s decision following our victory in EMW v. Meier at the Sixth Circuit, Attorney General Cameron is attempting to intervene at the eleventh hour so he can revive this unconstitutional abortion ban. He knows the courts are growing more hostile to abortion care and will stop at nothing in his effort to force Kentuckians to remain pregnant against their will – even if it means relitigating old cases.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers (R), however, said, “It is the right of the members of the General Assembly, as the policymakers, to choose who we want to defend in court the laws we pass.”

He continued:

The Constitution grants the legislature the authority to prescribe by law what the policies of this state are, and we have determined that the Attorney General should serve in that role. The issue in HB 454, the rights of the unborn, is important to us as legislators, and I thank General Cameron for representing the General Assembly in the United States Supreme Court.

The case is Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, No. 19-5516 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

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