By BRUCE SCHREINER – Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Republican Kentucky attorney general appeared in court Tuesday, saying the Democratic governor’s administration missed a deadline to put in place a regulatory process for a sweeping new law on the abortion currently blocked by federal court order.
In a move fraught with political and legal implications, Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in his lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration that state officials are still obligated to make regulations and create forms associated with the new law’s restrictions, even if a federal judge temporarily suspended his execution while the case is being argued. Cameron, who has filed paperwork to run for governor next year, said the order does not absolve the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services from carrying out its “responsibilities statutory”.
Beshear’s office referred questions about the trial to the cabinet, whose secretary was named defendant. Cabinet spokeswoman Susan Dunlap responded that Cameron’s lawsuit was a “baseless and blatant political stunt”. The back-and-forth adds more fuel to the escalating political rivalry between Cameron and Beshear, who could face off in the race for governor in 2023 if they win their parties’ respective nominations. It also sends another strong signal that Republicans will try to make abortion a key campaign issue.
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The state’s GOP-dominated legislature this spring overruled Beshear’s veto to pass the new measure. It would ban abortions after 15 weeks and introduce new oversight of medical abortion.
Abortions in Kentucky halted for several days when the two remaining abortion clinics said they could not immediately comply with the new law because its regulations had not been created. The clinics, both in Louisville, resumed abortions after the law was temporarily halted.
Cameron’s lawsuit against the Beshear administration comes against the politically charged backdrop of the state’s 2023 campaign for governor, which is well underway. Cameron is seeking the GOP nomination against several rivals, all seeking support from the party’s ardently anti-abortion base. Beshear, who supports abortion rights, is seeking a second term.
The lawsuit also comes as the nation waits to hear whether the nation’s highest court will strike down the constitutional right to abortion. A leaked draft opinion has suggested the US Supreme Court may be on the verge of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.
Cameron, losing preliminary federal court rulings on abortion law, asked a state judge to order the Beshear administration to immediately create the required forms, saying the 60-day deadline had passed . The lawsuit also calls for the implementation of corresponding regulations.
“Not acting is not an option, and our lawsuit asks the court to order the Governor and the Cabinet of Health and Family Services to follow the law,” Cameron said in a press release.
Dunlap, the firm’s spokeswoman, said the agency “has not refused to comply with any requirement.” The firm told Cameron’s office it would “work through the appropriate federal court in the matter,” she said.
“In response, the Attorney General sent threatening letters to the firm asking us to ignore court orders and today challenged federal court in an attempt to circumvent it,” she said.
Kentucky’s GOP-dominated legislature this spring overruled Beshear’s veto to pass the new abortion measure. It would ban abortions after 15 weeks, replacing the state’s 20-week limit.
It would also require women to be examined by a doctor before receiving abortion pills and for fetal remains to be buried or cremated. And it would require the state to put in place 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 drug procedures.
Two abortion rights groups – Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky – say Cameron’s lawsuit does not ‘change the status of the preliminary injunction’ – court action federal government temporarily blocking the abortion measure.
“Abortion is still legal in Kentucky,” the two groups said in the statement.
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