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Daniel Cameron makes new comments on abortion, birth control amid heightened scrutiny

Daniel Cameron is shown smiling in a professional photograph.
Kentucky Attorney General's Office
In Kentucky's November election, Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron hopes to defeat Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and deny him a second term in office.

With seven weeks left before the gubernatorial election, Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron staked out a new position on Kentucky’s abortion ban this week.

During his campaign for governor, Cameron has repeatedly said he supports Kentucky’s near-total “trigger” ban on abortion as it currently stands.

That law does not allow abortions if a person’s pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. Abortion is only legal in Kentucky if there is a life-threatening health risk to the pregnant patient.

Cameron also has highlighted his success in winning court rulings that allowed Kentucky’s abortion ban to take and remain in effect over the past year.

However, he offered a new perspective on the ban during an interview Monday on NewsRadio 840 WHAS. Specifically, Cameron said that if the Kentucky Legislature votes to add exceptions for rape and incest to the current abortion ban, he would sign that bill into law as governor.

“There’s no question about that,” Cameron said in the interview.

With this new comment, University of Kentucky political science professor Stephen Voss said Cameron “unavoidably will be perceived as having flip-flopped on the abortion issue.”

“The position he took and the way he described it during the Republican primary gave the perception to people watching the election that he was embracing the trigger law,” Voss said. “He may be able to massage his responses from here on out with regard to the difference between the policies he wants versus the policies he’s willing to let the Republican caucus pass, should they choose. But … that sort of hair-splitting on policy stances usually doesn't make it to the general public.”

The scenario Cameron discussed on the radio this week is unlikely to actually happen. The Kentucky Legislature is controlled by Republican lawmakers who have repeatedly declined to add exceptions for rape or incest to various anti-abortion laws they have passed in recent years.

The Legislature also did not advance any proposals to add such exceptions to the trigger ban during its annual lawmaking session earlier this year.

Voss said Cameron’s new decision to signal some flexibility on exceptions for Kentucky’s abortion ban could go over well with some swing voters. However, he said there’s a potential danger for Cameron if anti-abortion groups in Kentucky react negatively to his latest comments.

Cameron’s new comments come amid heightened scrutiny.

Over the past week, several news reports have scrutinized Cameron’s response to an April questionnaire sent out by the Northern Kentucky Right to Life group.

Cameron answered “yes” to every question on the survey, including two that inaccurately define abortion as including common contraceptive methods like Depo-Provera, Norplant and birth control pills.

Those contraceptive methods do not actually cause abortions.

In the survey, Cameron answered “yes” to a question asking if he would support legislation that prohibits all use of government funding for abortions and for those methods of contraception.

He also answered “yes” to a survey question that asked if he’d support legislation that makes it a criminal offense to perform, assist with or pay for someone else’s abortion. Under the current trigger law, which Cameron supports, it already is a criminal offense to perform an illegal abortion in Kentucky.

In Monday’s radio interview, Cameron said he supports contraception.

“I support birth control. I support contraception,” he said.

In a separate statement to LPM News concerning the survey, Cameron said, “It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest I oppose or want to criminalize birth control or contraception. I believe in upholding the fundamental right to religious freedom. No one should be compelled to act against their religious beliefs. That includes taxpayers.”

Cameron’s campaign did not directly answer LPM News’ questions about whether the attorney general stands by all of his responses to the questionnaire and how he personally defines abortion.

After LPM News' story published Tuesday, Cameron's campaign reached out Wednesday and clarified that the candidate "does not include emergency contraception or birth control in his definition of abortion."

Meanwhile, Cameron’s positions on abortion and birth control are the focus of new ads funded by Planned Parenthood Action Kentucky.

The group announced Tuesday that it launched a six-figure ad campaign for the November election season that highlights abortion rights issues.

Tamarra Wieder, the Kentucky state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said Cameron’s record, since he became attorney general in 2019, speaks for itself.

“When we are talking about abortion access, Daniel Cameron has done everything to stop abortion. And he did stop abortion in the commonwealth,” she said, referring to his defense of the abortion ban in court.

Wieder said Planned Parenthood Action Kentucky’s priority is to “to make sure that Daniel Cameron, who has done everything he can to obstruct access to abortion, is not in the governor’s seat.”

Cameron’s campaign reiterated his support for Kentucky’s current abortion ban in a statement Tuesday.

“Daniel Cameron is the pro-life candidate for governor and supports the Human Life Protection Act. But if the situation in Kentucky were to change and the legislature brought him a bill to add exceptions for rape and incest, he would, of course, sign it,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Alex Floyd, a spokesperson for Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign, said in a statement Tuesday that “Cameron has made it clear that he supports Kentucky's extreme abortion ban with no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest.”

“He has repeated that position in public statements, questionnaires, press interviews, and debates. As attorney general, Cameron repeatedly defended this extreme law with its lack of exceptions in front of multiple courts,” Floyd said. “Either recent polling numbers have changed Cameron's core beliefs, or he is lying to Kentuckians now that he is seven weeks from an election.”

This story was updated with a comment from Daniel Cameron's campaign regarding his stance on contraception and birth control.

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Morgan is LPM's health reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.