AG Cameron to file suit over right-to-life bill

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2022

FRANKFORT – Attorney General Daniel Cameron is filing suit against the Beshear administration alleging he has failed to comply with the requirements of House Bill 3, a pro-life Kentucky law that was partially blocked by a federal judge in May.

Filed in Franklin Circuit Court, the lawsuit contends that the Beshear administration must comply with the requirements set forth in HB 3 and is still required to enforce portions of the law, though much remains enjoined under a court order after Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s two abortion providers, challenged the law at U.S. District Court in Louisville.

“Governor Beshear has a duty to faithfully execute the law, but he has failed to implement important provisions of House Bill 3,” Cameron said. “His administration is required to create forms and set forth regulations that protect women’s health and unborn babies, including regulating abortion-inducing drugs. Failure to act is not an option, and our lawsuit asks the court to direct the governor and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to follow the law.”

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The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is required by the provisions of HB 3 to create and distribute new reporting forms within 60 days of the bill’s April 13, 2022 effective date, promulgate administrative regulations to oversee the dispensation and distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and aid in the interment of fetal remains.

However, given the federal court judge’s ruling, a spokesman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services called the lawsuit “a baseless and political stunt.”

Susan Dunlap of the Cabinet issued the following statement: “The Cabinet has not refused to comply with any requirements and has told the attorney general that it will work through the federal court that has jurisdiction over this matter and which has issued an injunction in this case,” she said. “In response, the attorney general sent threatening letters to the Cabinet asking us to ignore the court’s orders and today defied the federal court by trying to go around it.”

In the lawsuit, Cameron writes the Cabinet “has given no indication that it will fulfill its other obligations within a reasonable time. Instead, it has affirmatively asserted that it may not be able to comply in the absence of a specific appropriation and has indicated that any action to enforce the Cabinet’s compliance with the requirements of HB 3 would be a violation of the preliminary injunction — suggesting that the district court’s preliminary injunction relieves the Cabinet of its obligation to comply with HB 3.”

The federal court has explicitly stated even though parts of the law are temporarily halted while the litigation proceeds, that does not relieve the Cabinet of its obligation to act to fulfill its statutory responsibilities, the suit says.

House Bill 3 was an omnibus piece of pro-life legislation that addressed the disposal of fetal remains, the regulation of abortion pill dispensation, judicial bypass and parental consent for abortion on minors, abortion complications and abortion incidence reporting in Kentucky. A 15-week abortion ban was added to the bill when it passed in the Senate.

The bill was vetoed by Gov. Andy Beshear, who said it was likely unconstitutional, because it would, “require the Cabinet for Health and Family services to, among other things, create three new full-time positions, build an electronic database to store and track a certification and complaint program, and establish additional reporting requirements at an estimated initial cost of close to $1 million” without appropriating any funds to implement the changes.

He noted the emergency clause in the bill failed to provide the Cabinet with resources or time to make the transition. And the Cabinet later argued that the bill was an unfunded mandate.

After a veto override, HB 3 became law.