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Supreme Court Allows GOP Attorney General of Kentucky to Defend Abortion Law

The U.S. Supreme Court building on January 24, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Republican Attorney General of Kentucky could intervene to defend the state’s restrictive abortion law, which another senior official has abandoned.

The judges, in an 8-1 decision, said the federal lower court was wrong to deny Attorney General Daniel Cameron an attempt to intervene in an attempt to save the law.

This law would largely ban abortions performed using the method common during second trimester pregnancy.

The ruling dealt with the technical aspects of litigation under Kentucky law, not the merits of the law itself.

However, the decision is a setback for abortion rights advocates as it could lead to a resurrection of the law, which is one of several advocates of abortion are pushing to further limit when women can terminate pregnancies.

And the decision is made because the Supreme Court has yet to rule on a case involving Mississippi’s strict abortion law that could end or undermine the long-standing protection against abortion guaranteed by its landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Judge Samuel Alito, a Conservative, wrote an opinion on Thursday in the Kentucky case. Two liberal judges, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, agreed with the decision.

The only dissent was Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the third Liberal vote in the Conservative majority bench.

A Kentucky law signed into law in 2018 was later ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court. The state then appealed the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

But before that court made its decision, Kentucky elected then-Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, as its governor, and Cameron was elected attorney general in his place.

The Sixth Circuit then upheld the unlawful lower court ruling.

After that, the Kentucky health secretary decided not to file a further appeal, effectively dooming the law to go into effect.

But Cameron tried to intervene in order to get another appeal hearing.

However, the Sixth District rejected the offer, stating that Cameron’s offer came too late. Cameron then asked the Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

Breuer made it clear during the oral argument on the case in October that he would side with Cameron during the oral argument in October last year.

“If no one is prejudiced and I can’t see where they are, why can’t he just come and defend the law?” Breuer said at the time.

In Thursday’s majority opinion, Alito wrote that despite Beshear becoming governor, those who opposed the law in court “had no legally reasonable expectation that [health] the secretary he has chosen, or the newly elected Attorney General “will relinquish protection of the abortion law” before all available forms of scrutiny have been exhausted.”

Sotomayor, in her dissent, wrote that the majority[ing] back to accommodate the Attorney General for re-entering the case.”

She also wrote: “I fear that today’s decision will open the floodgates for government officials to avoid the consequences of judicial decisions made by their predecessors from different political parties, undermining the finality and violating the well-established expectations of the courts, litigants and the public.”

Breuer is retiring this summer from the Supreme Court.

President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace Breyer. If she is confirmed by the Senate, Jackson will become the first black woman on the high court.


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