Supreme Court to Decide Procedural Issue in Kentucky Abortion Case


The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether a Kentucky official can take over the defense of a law that abortion-rights advocates say would effectively ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The case doesn’t directly consider the constitutional right to abortion. A federal appeals court struck down the law, which would sharply restrict the most common second-trimester abortion method, known as dilation and evacuation.

The appeals court barred Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron from taking over the case in order to seek reconsideration from a larger panel of judges. Cameron, a Republican, sought to intervene after Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander, an appointee of Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, decided not to pursue the case further.

The law would bar dilation and evacuation unless the fetus is already dead. Cameron argues that providers could use one of three techniques to kill the fetus before performing the abortion, but the state’s only clinic says those methods aren’t feasible and would be risky for the woman.

Abortion opponents say dilation and evacuation, known as D&E, is an especially gruesome procedure because it involves dismembering the fetus.

The law is being challenged by Louisville-based EMW Women’s Surgical Center and two of its doctors. They contend the law imposes an unconstitutional “undue burden” on the right to abortion.

The Supreme Court has been deliberating for months over a potentially bigger abortion case, Mississippi’s bid to revive a law that directly bans abortion in most cases after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The court took no action on Mississippi’s appeal Monday.

The case is Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, 20-601.

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