FRANKFORT, Kentucky (AP) — The Republican attorney general of Kentucky went to court on Tuesday, alleging the Democratic governor’s administration missed a deadline to set up a regulatory process for a sweeping new abortion law that is currently blocked by a federal court order.
In a maneuver fraught with political and legal implications, Attorney General Daniel Cameron in his lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration said state officials are still required to issue regulations and prepare forms related to the new law’s restrictions, even if they A federal judge is temporarily halting its execution while the case is being processed. Cameron, who has filed papers to run for governor himself next year, said the order does not relieve the state’s Health and Family Services Cabinet from fulfilling its “legal duties.”
Beshear’s office referred questions about the lawsuit to the Cabinet, whose secretary was named as the accused. Cabinet spokeswoman Susan Dunlap responded that Cameron’s lawsuit was an “unfounded and blatant political ploy”. The back-and-forth fuels the deepening political rivalry between Cameron and Beshear, who could go head-to-head in the 2023 gubernatorial race if they win their respective parties’ nominations. It also sends another loud signal that Republicans will seek to make abortion a key campaign issue.
The state’s GOP-dominated legislature overruled Beshear’s veto to pass the new measure this spring. It would ban abortions after 15 weeks and establish a new oversight of medical abortions.
Abortions in Kentucky halted for several days when the two remaining abortion clinics said they could not comply with the new law immediately because its regulations had not been created. The clinics, both in Louisville, resumed abortions after the law was temporarily shelved.
Cameron’s lawsuit against the Beshear government comes against the politically charged backdrop of the state’s 2023 gubernatorial campaign, which is well underway. Cameron is seeking the GOP nomination against several rivals, all vying for the support of the party’s fervent anti-abortion base. Beshear, who campaigns for abortion rights, is seeking a second term.
The lawsuit also comes as the nation awaits news of whether the nation’s highest court will overturn the constitutional right to abortion. A leaked draft opinion suggested the US Supreme Court may be ready to hear the landmark case of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which legalized abortion nationwide.
Cameron, at the close of preliminary federal court decisions on the abortion law, asked a state judge to order Beshear’s administration to produce the necessary forms immediately, claiming the 60-day deadline had expired. The lawsuit also aims to implement the relevant regulations.
“Inaction is not an option, and our lawsuit asks the court to direct the governor and the Cabinet of Health and Family Services to follow the law,” Cameron said in a press release.
Dunlap, the cabinet spokeswoman, said the agency “did not refuse to meet any requirements”. The cabinet told Cameron’s office that it “would cooperate through the federal court that has jurisdiction over this matter,” she said.
“In response, the attorney general sent threatening letters to the cabinet, urging us to ignore the court’s orders, and today defied federal court by attempting to circumvent it,” she said.
Kentucky’s GOP-dominated legislature overruled Beshear’s veto to pass the new abortion measure this spring. It would ban abortions after 15 weeks, replacing the state’s 20-week limit.
It would also require women to be screened by a doctor before being given abortion pills and fetal remains to be buried or cremated. And it would require the state to establish a process to certify and oversee manufacturers and distributors of drugs used to terminate a pregnancy. About half of abortions in Kentucky are the result of medical interventions.
Two abortion rights groups — Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky — said Cameron’s lawsuit “does not change the status of the injunction” — the federal court action temporarily blocked the abortion measure.
“Abortion is still legal in Kentucky,” the two groups said in the statement.