FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Attorney General Andy Beshear is asking a federal appeals court to agree with a district judge in striking down an unconstitutional state regulation that poses harm to women.
Beshear filed a friend of the court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in order to fulfill his common-law duty to protect public rights and interests by ensuring the government acts legally and constitutionally.
Attorneys general from 20 states and the District of Columbia on Thursday joined with Beshear, a Democrat who is running for governor, in support of striking down the law. They are mostly Democrats led by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and also includes attorneys general from California, New York, Washington, Virginia and others.
Republica attorneys general from 16 states filed in February supporting the Bevin's administration's position, including from those in border states Ohio and Indiana.
In the brief, Beshear says the court should find the governor and his administration illegally created a regulation in order to interfere with a woman’s constitutional right to reproductive health care.
“As the state’s chief law officer, it is my duty to uphold Kentucky’s Constitution and the U.S. Constitution,” said Beshear. “By ignoring state and federal laws the governor’s actions threaten the health and safety of women.”
Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration was quick to respond and denounced the action of the attorney general.
"Attorney General Beshear today reached a new low when he took the extraordinary and unprecedented step of filing a 'friend of the court' brief, asking a federal appeals court to declare unconstitutional Kentucky's law requiring abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals as a condition of being licensed," said Woody Maglinger, deputy communications director for Gov. Bevin. "In doing so, Andy Beshear once again strongly aligned himself with the pro-abortion groups, ACLU and Planned Parenthood — and against not only the law of the state that it is his job to defend, but also against the interests and popular will of the vast majority of Kentuckians who value not only life, but the safety of women who elect to undergo abortions."
At issue in the case is the governor and his administration asserting there were deficiencies with Louisville’s EMW Women's Surgical Center’s transfer agreements with a hospital and threatening to revoke their license.
The clinic responded by entering into new transfer agreements. EMW alleged in their lawsuit that funding threats led local hospitals to cancel the new transfer agreements. Without a local agreement, the state’s only abortion provider faced closure.
EMW filed a lawsuit challenging the state law that requires the agreements.
In response to the lawsuit, the governor promulgated an emergency regulation in an attempt to justify his prior rejection of the agreements and to make it harder for the clinic to get a state license, the brief said.
Beshear’s brief concludes by urging the court not to strike down the state law requiring transfer agreements, as the law has been in effect for 19 years without violating women’s rights, but to affirm the district court’s decision to strike down the emergency regulation and prohibit the governor's administration from further violating the Constitution.
The federal district court struck down both the law and the regulation in September 2018.
Meanwhile, Gov. Bevin has worked with the General Assembly to enact several vital pieces of pro-life legislation, including:
In addition to the transfer agreement case currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Gov. Bevin's legal team is currently defending HB 2, HB 454, SB 9, and HB 5 in federal court.
Both Bevin and Beshear are gubernatorial candidates in their respective parties.
Four Democrats are seeking their party's nomination for governor this year. Besides Beshear, state Rep. Rocky Adkins, former state auditor Adam Edelen and frequent candidate Geoff Young are running.
In the state's Republican gubernatorial primary, Bevin faces challenges from state Rep. Robert Goforth, William Woods and Ike Lawrence. Kentucky's primary election is May 21.