KY Attorney General Asks Supreme Court to Allow Him to Represent State in Abortion Case Governor Doesn’t Want to Pursue

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Kentucky’s Republican attorney general should be allowed to defend the state’s abortion law in court after the state’s Democratic governor refused to do so, the Supreme Court heard Oct. 12.

Although it was the court’s first abortion-related case since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s addition to the bench last year gave its conservative wing a 6–3 majority, Kentucky’s abortion law itself wasn’t at issue at the hearing.

The high court considered only the procedural question of whether Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron could intervene in the case on behalf of his state.

Nonetheless, the case sets the stage for an upcoming hearing that deals directly with abortion. The court is scheduled to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, court file 19-1392, on Dec. 1, a challenge to Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act which allows abortions after 15 weeks’ gestational age only in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality.

The case heard Oct. 12 is Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, court file 20-601. The respondent, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, in Louisville, is Kentucky’s only licensed abortion clinic.

The case revolves around Kentucky’s 2018 ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions on unborn children. Then-Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed the law, the Human Rights of Unborn Children Act, which stopped D&E abortions after 11 weeks of pregnancy and was subsequently enjoined by federal courts.

After Bevin’s successor, Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, refused to defend the statute in court, Cameron indicated he wanted to do so. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit turned down Cameron’s request, at which point, he filed his petition asking the Supreme Court to allow him to intervene in the case.

Chief Justice John Roberts told clinic attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas during oral arguments that it was important to be clear about who represents Kentucky.

“You don’t want the state speaking through two different voices,” he said.

Kolbi-Molinas said Cameron waited too long to get involved in the case.

Cameron “agreed to be bound by final judgment and chose not to appeal it,” she said.

“Because he was expressly bound by the judgment, he had a right to appeal, but he had to do so within the 30-day timeframe set by statute. He cannot now avoid his jurisdictional failure by seeking to intervene instead.”

Kentucky Principal Deputy Solicitor General Matthew F. Kuhn said that “two days after learning that another state official had stopped defending Kentucky’s House Bill 454, the attorney general moved to intervene so that the commonwealth could exhaust all appeals in defense of its law.”

“This court’s caselaw instructs that acting for a state is a distinct capacity because everyone agrees that the attorney general did not participate in that capacity in district court he is not jurisdictionally barred from doing so now,” Kuhn said.

“Even still, the attorney general could not have appealed the district court’s judgment. He had been dismissed from the case without prejudice, he was not named in the district court’s judgment, and he had preserved his ability to participate in any appeal and to benefit from any favorable result on appeal.”

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Matthew Vadum


Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist and a recognized expert in left-wing activism.

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