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The U.S. Supreme Court, in Washington, on Nov. 2, 2020.

J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a bid by Kentucky’s Republican attorney-general to defend a restrictive state law, struck down by lower courts, that abortion rights advocates have said would effectively ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Attorney-General Daniel Cameron has asked the justices to let him intervene in defence of the Republican-backed law after Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s administration dropped the case.

The Supreme Court is being asked to decide only that narrow issue, and not whether the law violates Supreme Court precedents holding that women have a right to obtain an abortion. Abortion opponents are hopeful that the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, will curb abortion rights.

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Abortion rights advocates have said the 2018 law would effectively ban an abortion method called dilation and evacuation – the most common form of abortion performed during the second trimester of a pregnancy.

The law was passed by Kentucky’s legislature and signed by a Republican governor, but Beshear subsequently was elected and decided not to continue to defend the measure after the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down in June 2020. The 6th Circuit later that month declined to allow Cameron to intervene to defend the law.

The 6th Circuit ruling came just five days before the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision struck down a Louisiana law that imposed restrictions on doctors who perform abortions. Cameron wants to be able to ask the 6th Circuit to reconsider its ruling against the Kentucky law in light of language contained in the Louisiana decision.

The Kentucky law was one of a growing number passed by Republican legislators at the state level imposing a variety of restrictions on abortion. The state’s previous governor, Republican Matt Bevin, had defended the law.

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