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The defense of life gets its day in court

Erin Hawley | Supreme Court says an attorney general can defend his state’s ban on a shocking abortion procedure

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron Associated Press/Photo by Timothy D. Easley

The defense of life gets its day in court
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The U.S. Supreme Court held on March 3 that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, may step in to defend his state’s ban on dilation and evacuation abortions, a particularly barbaric procedure, after the administration of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear declined to do so. While the high court’s decision is a step in the right direction, lower courts have unanimously struck down restrictions on D&E abortions.

The Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision permits many things that most Americans would surely find disturbing. It allows states like New York, California, and Vermont to provide abortions up until the moment of birth. The Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center case reveals another shocking truth about Roe: It requires states to allow second-trimester abortions, where the most common abortion procedure used at this age shocks the conscience.

According to the original case brought by abortion providers in the state, 95 percent of second-trimester abortions are performed by dilation and evacuation. As the lower court in this case clinically observed, during a D&E procedure, the abortion provider dilates a patient’s cervix and then uses surgical instruments to pull the child through the cervical opening. Because the baby is larger than the cervical opening, “fetal tissue separates as the physician draws it through that narrow opening.”

The Kentucky legislature described the D&E procedure more graphically. The legislation forbids abortions that will result in the “bodily dismemberment” of a baby after 13 weeks of gestation. The statute defines bodily dismemberment as “a procedure in which a person, with the purpose of causing the death of an unborn child, dismembers the living unborn child and extracts portions, pieces, or limbs of the unborn child from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or a similar instrument that … slices, crushes, or grasps … any portion, piece, or limb of the unborn child’s body to cut or separate the portion, piece, or limb from the body.”

No woman wanting to obtain an abortion has challenged Kentucky’s law. Rather, it is being challenged by abortion providers—those who profit from abortion—who say they represent women’s interests.

It's difficult to believe anyone would object to a law forbidding such a procedure. Yet, Kentucky abortion providers filed suit stating that they were unwilling to learn how to perform procedures that would ensure the child was not alive when he or she was torn piece by piece from his or her mother’s womb.

The Cameron case reveals a dirty secret about the abortion industry and the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence. No woman wanting to obtain an abortion has challenged Kentucky’s law. Rather, it is being challenged by abortion providers—those who profit from abortion—who say they represent women’s interests. This profit motive represents a clear conflict of interest that in any other area of law would prevent abortion providers from attempting to represent women. And no honest person can deny the horror of the D&E procedure. Similarly, no one can deny that the abortion industry defends this barbarism for its own gain.

And yet, the lower court struck down Kentucky’s prohibition on D&E abortions, finding that restrictions posed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion under Roe. It made a ridiculous distinction between two similar abortion procedures. Under Supreme Court precedent, states may forbid one procedure but not the other. But the distinction is only in the order of actions in the horrifying sequence. In both versions, the baby is ruthlessly destroyed in the womb. Once again, we see the absolute moral poverty of the Supreme Court’s abortion decisions.

Because Roe forbids states from protecting life until viability—around 22 weeks—the Culture of Death marches on. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Kentucky case at least allows the state’s Republican pro-life chief legal officer to make his best case for defending unborn life.

Daniel Cameron will now get another day in court to defend his state’s ban on such a brutal procedure. Life hangs in the balance, again. This is a challenge he, as we, must win.

Erin Hawley

Erin Hawley is a wife, mom of three, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, and former law professor.


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