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New Kentucky Attorney General Joins Abortion Opponents In Pivotal Supreme Court Case

Attorney General Daniel Cameron at the Republicans' 2019 Election Party
Attorney General Daniel Cameron at the Republicans' 2019 Election Party

Kentucky’s new attorney general made his first move on abortion litigation on Friday. 

Attorney General Daniel Cameron joined 20 other states in asking the Supreme Court to side with the state of Louisiana, which is being sued over a law that says doctors who provide abortions must have hospital admitting privileges.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in March in the case challenging the Louisiana law: June Medical Services, LLC v. Dr. Rebekah Gee. The law, which hasn’t gone into effect because of a court stay, would require doctors to practice at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where they perform an abortion. 

Proponents of the law say it would allow a doctor performing an abortion to deal with an emergency or complication resulting from the procedure at a nearby hospital. Abortion access advocates say this kind of law isn’t necessary to ensure the safety of a patient, and that it would dramatically reduce the number of abortion clinics in Louisiana. 

The amicus brief Cameron joined also argues that doctors and abortion facilities do not have standing to bring a lawsuit on behalf of patients, which is the case in this and many abortion-related lawsuits.

“We cannot allow the self-interested motives of abortion providers and facilities to dictate the circumstances under which abortion procedures are performed,” Cameron said in a statement. “If Louisiana’s commonsense law is overturned, it will set a dangerous precedent that allows the very industry that profits from abortions to now regulate abortions and determine what is safe for pregnant women.”

In the amicus brief, Cameron joins other states in arguing that it is important for states to “make and enforce the laws and regulations regarding health and safety that govern abortion procedures.”

The brief notes that abortion-related cases, “have become vehicles by which abortion practitioners and facilities attack health-and-safety regulations designed to protect women — the same women whose rights the practitioners claim to invoke — from the practitioners themselves.”

A similar law requiring abortion practitioners to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016. Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy sided against that law, but it’s widely speculated that new Justice Brett Kavanaugh may vote with abortion opponents despite the 2016 case precedent.

Kentucky also has several abortion-related laws that are currently in lower courts. That includes a transfer agreement law, which would require abortion clinics to have agreements in place with nearby hospitals to transfer a patient there in the case of an emergency. That law was struck down, but last summer former Governor Matt Bevin’s administration appealed the decision, arguing that it was necessary to protect women's health.

There are also several laws signed by Bevin with unclear futures under both a new attorney general and new Governor Andy Beshear. That includes a law known as the “abortion reversal” bill, which makes abortion providers give patients information about the potential to reverse a medically-induced abortion. The Beshear administration could stop enforcement of the law. Recentresearch was halted on the abortion reversal pill after study participants were rushed to the hospital with complications after taking the pill.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.

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