Supreme Court Affirms Kentucky AG’s Right to Defend Law Banning Live-Dismemberment Abortion

FRANKFORT, KY - SEPTEMBER 23: Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks during a pre
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In an 8-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) can defend the commonwealth’s law banning live-dismemberment abortion, despite Gov. Andrew Beshear’s (D) refusal.

The decision authored by Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito overturned a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that barred Cameron’s office from intervening in the case. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the sole dissenter.

When former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed the Human Rights of Unborn Children Act into law, barring live-dismemberment abortions after 11 weeks of pregnancy in the commonwealth, then-Attorney General Andrew Beshear (D) refused to defend the law when the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, an abortion clinic, filed suit. Statewide defense of the law, therefore, fell to the secretary of health and family services — an appointed member of Bevin’s cabinet.

After a mid-litigation election, which saw Beshear become governor and Republican Daniel Cameron become attorney general, the original respondent — the secretary for health and family service’s office — eventually declined to continue the defense of litigation because of Beshear’s pro-abortion political position. In response, Cameron moved forward with an intervention to defend the law, filling the void left by Beshear’s new cabinet. While the federal district and appeals courts denied Cameron intervenor status, the Supreme Court overruled them, recognizing Kentucky’s attorney general office as a separate constitutional position from the governor and its sovereignty.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear listens to a reporters question following the signing of bills related to the American Rescue Plan Act at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., Wednesday, April 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear listens to a reporter’s question following the signing of bills related to the American Rescue Plan Act at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, KY, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Writing for the majority, Alito focused on “deeper, constitutional considerations” for defending Kentucky’s law, such as state sovereignty.

“Our Constitution ‘spli[t] the atom of sovereignty,'” he wrote quoting precedent. “The Constitution limited but did not abolish the sovereign powers of the States, which retained ‘a residuary and inviolable sovereignty.’ … This means that a State’s opportunity to defend its laws in federal court should not be lightly cut off.”

“Respect for state sovereignty must also take into account the authority of a State to structure its executive branch in a way that empowers multiple officials to defend its sovereign interests in federal court,” Alito continued. “The way in which Kentucky divides executive authority and the unusual course that this litigation took should not obscure the important constitutional consideration at stake.”

“A court fails to exercise its discretion soundly when it ‘base[s] its ruling on an erroneous view of the law,'” he added.

This decision to allow the attorney general to defend a state’s pro-life law in federal court comes as the U.S. Senate rejected a radical proposal that would have federalized all abortion regulations in the country and allowed abortions up until the moment of birth. All but one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), voted for the abortion bill in the Senate.

The case similarly comes as the Supreme Court is weighing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that poses the most significant challenge to Roe v. Wade in decades, and one many pro-life advocates believe has the best chance to overturn the case that has allowed for countless abortions in the United States.

“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,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said of the ruling. “Brutal live-dismemberment abortions on babies with fully formed arms, legs, fingers and toes, even after the point when they can feel pain, show the true extremism of our nation’s status quo on abortion.”

“Acting on the will of the people, Kentucky lawmakers passed legislation to stop this inhumane practice with overwhelming bipartisan majorities,” she continued. “As we await a decision in the Dobbs case that could restore the right of all states to protect countless unborn children and their mothers, pro-life champions in the states like Daniel Cameron are not waiting to lead and are more important than ever.”

The case is Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, No. 20-601, in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.


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