Supreme Court Takes Up Its First Abortion-Related Case under 6-3 Conservative Majority

Source: Michael Foust | Contributor

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an abortion-related case out of Kentucky, marking the first time the justices have considered the issue in oral arguments with Amy Coney Barrett on the court.

At issue is a decision by the U.S. Sixth Court of Appeals not to allow Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, to continue defending the state’s new pro-life law. 

The Kentucky law in question banned an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, in which an unborn baby is dismembered, piece by piece, while still in the womb or birth canal. Cameron’s office defended the law on behalf of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, but after a Sixth Circuit panel ruled the law unconstitutional, the administration of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear chose not to appeal the lawsuit. Cameron then asked the Sixth Circuit to allow his office to join the suit so he could defend the law without Beshear’s permission. The Sixth Circuit declined, and Cameron appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, on Monday, said in an order that it would take up the case but limit the issue to whether Cameron can defend the law. The constitutionality of the pro-life law itself will not be considered by the court, according to the court’s order.

It will be the first abortion-related case heard by the court under the new 6-3 conservative majority.

The law is House Bill 454.

“I promised Kentuckians that I would defend our laws all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and that’s what we’ve done,” Cameron said in a statement. “Since day one in office, we’ve fought to defend House Bill 454, even when the Beshear Administration refused to defend it. This law reflects the conscience of Kentucky by banning the gruesome practice of live dismemberment abortions, and it’s important that Kentuckians have a voice before our nation’s highest court. I was elected to provide that voice, and we look forward to making our case to the Supreme Court.”  

ScotusBlog, which covers the Supreme Court’s actions, said the question before the court is “whether a state attorney general vested with the power to defend state law should be permitted to intervene after a federal court of appeals invalidates a state statute when no other state actor will defend the law.”

The case will be argued this fall, with an opinion from the Supreme Court expected next year.