Kentucky lawmakers hand AG new authority to regulate abortion clinics

Published 5:49 am Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Lawmakers handed Kentucky’s anti-abortion attorney general new authority to regulate abortion clinics on Tuesday when they overrode the governor’s veto of the measure.

The Republican-dominated legislature voted to give Attorney General Daniel Cameron the power to seek civil and criminal penalties for any violation of Kentucky’s abortion laws. In doing so, they brushed aside Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the measure.

Cameron, also a Republican, welcomed the override votes, saying on social media that it will allow his office to “ensure that abortion clinics follow the law.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which opposed the bill, said the override was another step in a “campaign to push constitutionally protected abortion care out of reach, bit by bit.”

The new law will enable Cameron’s office to “interfere with and undermine regulatory powers” held by career health experts at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said Samuel Crankshaw, the group’s spokesman.

Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield has said the attorney general’s new powers would be concurrent with the cabinet’s authority to enforce abortion laws and seek penalties for violations.

Beshear vetoed similar legislation in 2020. Last year’s bill passed shortly before the legislative session ended, preventing lawmakers from overriding the veto.

In recent years, Kentucky lawmakers have moved aggressively to put restrictions and conditions on abortion since Republicans assumed total control of the General Assembly.