Bevin, Beshear At Odds Over Defense Of Abortion Bill

Jan 25, 2017

Gov. Matt Bevin has accused Attorney General Andy Beshear of backpedaling on his promise to defend a new abortion law passed this month by the Republican-led General Assembly.

Bevin took to Facebook Wednesday to question the top law enforcement official’s commitment to fighting the ACLU's legal challenge to House Bill 2, a measure requiring physicians to describe ultrasound results to patients before they can receive an abortion. Beshear, a Democrat, has indicated he will defend the bill, even as he cautions of “risks and potential costs.”

But in a new video, the governor suggested a recent filing tells a different story.    

"Now, he's decided he's not going to do his job. Last week, he filed with the court and simply said he takes no position on this bill. It is now not going to defend House Bill 2," Bevin said. "That is absolutely unconscionable."

Beshear quickly returned fire in a written statement, referring to Bevin’s charges as “alternative facts.”

The attorney general insisted his office is taking the most aggressive action possible by moving to dismiss the entire case against agencies sued over House Bill 2. While spokesman Terry Sebastian confirmed Beshear's office did refrain from taking a position on a motion seeking to temporarily halt the law, he said a full dismissal of the case would effectively nullify that motion.  

The attorney general has signaled his refusal to defend a separate abortion bill banning the procedure after 20 weeks unless the mother's life is threatened. Beshear has labeled that legislation "clearly unconstitutional."

But the attorney general's positions jump the gun, according to Bevin.

Referring to the ultrasound bill, the governor said the commonwealth is far from alone: "That is something that has been upheld in the 5th Circuit. It was temporarily stayed in another circuit. Again, it's undetermined law, but it hasn't been settled. It's never been tried in the 6th Circuit where Kentucky is. And yet it is the law of the land here in Kentucky."

Bevin said 20-week bans also remain a matter of debate in the court system and will likely end up before the Supreme Court.

A federal judge has set a February 16th hearing date for the ACLU challenge to the ultrasound bill.