FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Attorney General Daniel Cameron wants the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to certify that Kentucky abortion providers are violating Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order banning elective medical procedures during the coronavirus crisis.
In a statement issued Friday, Cameron said, “I’m calling on CHFS Acting Secretary Eric Friedlander to certify that Kentucky’s abortion providers are violating his ban on elective medical procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing to perform abortions. Kentucky’s current ban on elective medical procedures exists to further the mandated policy of social distancing, and to help conserve medical resources for use in fighting COVID-19.”
Cameron noted that Friedlander is on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic “and I am confident that he understands, better than anyone, the necessity of ending abortion procedures during this health crisis. His certification will immediately trigger action by our office to stop elective procedures during the pandemic.”
“Abortion providers should join the thousands of other medical professionals across the state in ceasing elective procedures, unless the life of the mother is at risk, to protect the health of their patients and slow the spread of the coronavirus.”
On March 14, Beshear asked Kentucky hospitals to stop elective procedures by the close of business on March 18. Nine days later he signed an executive order to ban all elective procedures, saying additional action was needed since some groups did not follow the original guidance.
Current state law requires the Attorney General to get certification from CHFS, however, a House bill to allow the Attorney General to act proactively against abortion clinics alleged to have violated state law has already passed that chamber and cleared a Senate committee on Thursday.
The measure would allow the Attorney General to seek injunctive relief as well as civil and criminal penalties to prevent, penalize, and remedy violations of state law relating to abortions and abortion facilities. It would not prevent the CHFS secretary from acting they currently can.
The state's only abortion clinic, EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, said recently that it planned to continue providing abortions, the Courier Journal reported.
The Family Foundation, a conservative, a pro-life group, has criticized the continuation of abortion services in Kentucky during the ban on elective medical procedures.
“Kentucky's only abortion clinic is certainly not ‘life sustaining,' but it is still open," Family Foundation Executive Director Kent Ostrander said in a news release Thursday. “And clearly its services are ‘elective,' so ... it should be closed."
Chris Charbonneau, CEO Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, weighed in with a statement.
"Our doors remain open for care," Charbonneau said. "Denying or delaying health care places an immediate burden on patients, their families, our communities, and the health system, and can have profound and lasting consequences.... What matters most, even in a pandemic, is that providers are able to provide essential health care without barriers, while also flattening the curve in the community."
Heather Gatnarek, staff attorney for ACLU-Kentucky, also had a statement.
"It is outrageous that Attorney General Cameron and Kentucky politicians are trying to take advantage of a public health crisis to push their anti-abortion agenda . ... Everyone's situation is different and it is critical that people be able to make their own decisions about continuing or ending a pregnancy, in consultation with their loved ones and their health providers. These politicians should listen to medical experts and stop playing politics with Kentuckians' health."
If approved by the full Senate, the bill would have to return to the House for concurrence in the Senate committee changes.
Texas and Ohio lawmakers are moving to ban most abortions during the coronavirus outbreak, saying they don’t qualify as essential surgeries.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said this week that the order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott barred "any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother."
He added, failure to comply with the order can result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail.
In Ohio, abortion clinics received letters last week from Attorney General Dave Yost ordering them to cease all "non-essential" surgical abortions. Yost wrote that the procedures violate a March 17 order issued by the state health director.
Beshear’s office has not responded to a request for comment on Cameron’s statement.