Last week, the Office of the Attorney General of Kentucky argued before the Supreme Court for the right to continue a defense of pro-life House Bill 454 in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. While the case is primarily concerned with Kentucky’s state sovereignty in defending its laws, the high court’s ruling will determine whether or not AG Cameron and his team can exhaust all appeals in defending HB 454, which is also known as the Human Rights of the Child Act.
Some news outlets in Kentucky, alongside organizations like ACLU Kentucky, have reported HB 454 would specifically ban the dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedure, which is a common method of pregnancy termination in the second trimester.
HB 454 states: “No person shall intentionally perform or induce or attempt to perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman: that will result in the bodily dismemberment, crushing, or human vivisection of the unborn child; and when the probably post-fertilization age of the unborn child is eleven (11) weeks or greater; except in the case of a medical emergency.”
Before that declaration, however, the bill clarifies its terms.
Bodily dismemberment, crushing, or human vivisection are defined 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 claims, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or a similar instrument.”
On the road to the Supreme Court, the AG’s office has maintained that HB 454 would ban the dismemberment of living fetuses, not D&E abortions.
In a brief filed on June 14, 2021 ahead of Cameron v. EMW Women’s Health at SCOTUS, the AG’s office explained that the bill would lessen a “dehumanizing aspect” of dismemberment abortion by prohibiting D&E abortions while “the unborn child is still alive.”
“In doing so, HB 454 allows providers to keep performing these procedures as long as the provider causes fetal death before ‘dismember[ing]’ the unborn child,” the brief read.
“Under HB 454, D&E abortions can continue, but an unborn child must die before he or she is dismembered. In this simple way, HB 454 extends compassion to unborn children, thus demonstrating the Commonwealth’s profound respect for life,” Cameron’s legal counsel said in their petition for writ of certiorari in October 2020.
Prior to Cameron’s intervention, the Secretary for the Cabinet of Health and Family Services argued in district court that fetal death could be caused in three ways, complying with HB 454:
--Injecting digoxin into the amniotic fluid or the unborn child;
--Injecting potassium chloride into the chest, heart, or umbilical cord of the unborn child; or
--Severing the unborn child’s umbilical cord.
Cameron said House Bill 454 is the “appropriate, responsible thing for Kentucky to do” at a press conference following his office’s argument before the Supreme Court last week.
“I think it expresses the values and the compassion of Kentucky to say if this procedure is to occur, we do not want that child to feel pain in the womb,” Cameron added. “The dilation and evacuation procedure is gruesome. It rips a baby apart. We don’t want a child to feel that pain.”
Former Rep. Addia Wuchner, a registered nurse who sponsored HB 454, said dismemberment abortions are “inhumane,” especially when the fetus is still alive.
“The nuance of the law would prevent this procedure on a live, unborn child in the womb,” Wuchner said.
TESSA REDMOND covers life issues for Kentucky Today.