Attorney General Daniel Cameron is pushing back on recent claims that he wants to criminalize or ban birth control.
Cameron’s answers to the Northern Kentucky Right to Life 2023 primary election questionnaire have in recent days raised concerns that if elected Kentucky’s next governor on Nov. 7, he would make contraception illegal.
“It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest I oppose or want to criminalize birth control or contraception,” Cameron told the Herald-Leader.
The survey in question, published in April, asked candidates 11 questions about their various stances on abortion, stem cell research, assisted suicide and public funding for reproductive health care.
Cameron’s critics have taken his answers, on the whole, to mean he supports criminalizing birth control because he responded “yes” to a question asking if he’d support making it a “criminal offense” to perform or assist with an abortion. In two other questions on the survey, “abortion” is defined incorrectly as including birth control.
“Daniel Cameron answered YES to every question (on the survey),” Kate Turner, a former Democratic candidate for Kentucky House posted to Twitter. “A yes to those questions affirms: 1) he supports criminalizing abortion 2) abortion is defined as including the “so called standard birth control pill.”
There is no doubt that Cameron is fervently anti-abortion. He has celebrated the downfall of Roe v. Wade in 2022, fought to uphold Kentucky’s abortion ban and has promised to make “defending innocent life” a top priority as governor. And in the 12-way Republican primary contest, Cameron touted his endorsement from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
In his official capacity as attorney general, Cameron has vigorously defended several anti-abortion rights laws passed by the Republican-dominated legislature. Most notably, his office has led the defense in court of Kentucky’s laws banning abortion.
Following the reversal or Roe v. Wade last year, Kentucky’s trigger ban took effect, criminalizing abortion except when a pregnant person’s life is threatened. Concurrently, a fetal heartbeat law, or six-week ban, also became enforceable. It outlaws abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks gestation. The combination of both laws has led to a virtual elimination of abortion in Kentucky.
This near-total ban is an area that Democrats hope is a weakness for Cameron in the general election. A commercial released by the re-election campaign of Gov. Andy Beshear slammed Cameron’s support for those bans, in particular highlighting their lack of exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
On the NKRTL survey, the first question asks if he would support codifying fetal personhood, “from fertilization until natural death.”
The second question asks if he would support making it a “criminal offense to perform, to assist with, or to pay for an abortion on another,” with noted exceptions for preventing the death of the pregnant person.
A later question asks if Cameron would support prohibiting the “use of local, state, federal, and/or Medicare or Medicaid funds for abortion.” In that question and one other, the NKRTL falsely equates abortion medication with emergency contraception and “the so-called ‘standard birth control pill.’”
The medical consensus is clear: birth control and abortion are not the same.
Emergency contraception, also called “the morning-after pill” or by brand name “Plan B,” does not cause an abortion, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Food and Drug Administration. Abortion ends a pregnancy, whereas emergency contraception prevents pregnancy by delaying ovulation and will not work if the person is already pregnant.
A Cameron campaign spokesperson told the Herald-Leader that Cameron does not include emergency contraception in his definition of abortion.
Cameron answered yes to all 11 questions on the survey. His “yes” answer to the question conflating birth control with abortion medication led some critics to conclude that Cameron would seek to limit access to birth control. That suggestion was what Cameron’s team called “ridiculous.”
Cameron was clear, however, that he is against taxpayer funds — including Medicaid — paying for contraception.
“I believe in upholding the fundamental right to religious freedom,” Cameron said in a statement. “No one should be compelled to act against their religious beliefs. That includes taxpayers. Those ideas are mainstream.”
The majority of the Republican respondents, including the other slate of constitutional officer candidates: Secretary of State Michael Adams, Treasurer and candidate for auditor Allison Ball, treasurer nominee Mark Metcalf and commissioner of agriculture nominee Jonathan Shell answered yes to all 11 questions. Republican Attorney General nominee Russell Coleman and former treasurer candidate OJ Oleka were noted as “responded, but did not answer questionnaire.”
The NKRTL questionnaire does not allow for candidates to answer with nuance.
“NKRTL must point out to the reader that some candidates take it upon themselves to modify our questions, thereby failing to answer them specifically, and indeed making exceptions of their own, while simultaneously attempting to answer ‘yes,’ to attempt to present a Pro-Life position,” the document says. “They failed to answer the questions as asked. Such action by the candidate deprives the voter of information on the candidate’s position on the issues which the candidate avoided answering.”
Cameron also received a “100% pro-life” score from the statewide Kentucky Right to Life.
The statewide Right to Life asks if candidates are “morally and/or medically opposed” to “chemical abortions,” which it defines as including “drugs known to prevent the newly created human being from attaching (implantation) to his/her mother’s womb.”
It also asks about “conscience clauses” that would allow physicians and pharmacists to “opt out of participating in any type of induced or elective abortion, including surgical, chemical and medical.”