Idaho Supreme Court won’t block strict abortion bans

Idaho’s strict abortion bans will be allowed to go into effect while legal challenges to the laws play out in court, the Idaho Supreme Court said on Friday.

The ruling means potential parents of an embryo or fetus can now sue abortion providers for procedures performed after six weeks of gestation – before many people know they are pregnant. Another stricter ban criminalizing all abortions will come into effect later this month.

A doctor and a regional affiliate of Planned Parenthood sued the state earlier this year over three anti-abortion laws, most designed to go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which she did in June.

In a split decision, a majority of Idaho Supreme Court justices said the laws could go into effect, but sped up the timeline for deciding the lawsuits. Two judges agreed to expedite the cases but said they felt the laws should not be enforced until the legal wrangling is over.

“Tonight, the people of Idaho had their bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom taken away from them,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Alexis McGill Johnson said in a press release. “Today’s court decision is horrific and cruel. But it’s not the end of the fight, and it’s not our last day in court. No one should have their life used as a pawn by their elected officials or their justice system. »

The US Department of Justice is also suing Idaho in federal court over a near-total abortion ban and has called for the law to be suspended. The federal judge has not yet ruled in this case.

Under the Idaho Supreme Court’s ruling, a near-total criminalization of all abortions – but allowing doctors to defend themselves at trial by claiming the abortion was performed to save the pregnant person’s life – will come into effect on August 25.

Another law that takes effect immediately allows potential parents of an embryo or fetus to sue abortion providers for up to $20,000 within four years of an abortion. Rapists cannot sue under the law, but family members of rapists could sue.

Planned Parenthood also pursued a strict third ban criminalizing abortions performed after six weeks’ gestation, except where necessary to save a pregnant person’s life or due to rape or incest. This law was written to take effect on August 19.

Dr. Caitlin Gustafson and Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky filed three lawsuits for each of the statutes. The Idaho Supreme Court consolidated those cases into one as part of Friday’s ruling.

Planned Parenthood and the doctor failed to show that allowing the laws to apply would cause “irreparable harm,” the Idaho Supreme Court has found. The high court said the plaintiffs also did not have enough evidence that they had a “clear right” to a remedy, or that they were likely to win on the merits of the case.

“What the petitioners are asking this court to ultimately do is declare a right to abortion under the Idaho Constitution when – on the face of it – there is none. “wrote Justice Robin Brody for the majority, joined by Chief Justice Richard Bevan and Justice Gregory Moeller. .

The complexity of the arguments is likely to open up new legal horizons in the state, the majority believed. The judges said that meant the issues should not be decided until the case is fully heard – a process that can take months or more.

“In short, given Idaho’s legal history, we cannot simply infer that such a right exists in Roe’s absence without breaking a new legal foundation, which should only occur after that the case will finally have been submitted on the merits,” the court wrote.

Justice John Stegner, joined by Justice Colleen Zahn, wrote in a partial dissent that even casual observers can say the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision has caused “significant upheaval” in society.

“I begin by noting that never in the history of our nation has a fundamental right once granted to its citizens been revoked,” Stegner wrote. “For nearly half a century, Idahoans who have performed or obtained abortions have been protected by the recognized federal fundamental right of the woman involved in the procedure to exercise her right to bodily autonomy and to health to terminate the pregnancy.”

Stegner challenged the majority’s decision to allow the laws to go into effect, noting that they relied in part on legal interpretations by other state and federal courts.

“Put simply, this case involves the application of Idaho law to a single Idaho question,” he said, and allowing the laws to take effect while that question is being decided exposes the women at risk of being denied a fundamental right.

“The only argument by the state and the legislature that irreparable harm will not result is that the Idaho Constitution does not protect the right to abortion,” Stegner wrote. “This argument fails because it is based on a decision that we have not yet made.”

During oral argument in the case last week, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood and Gustafson told the High Court that exceptions to abortion bans to save a patient’s life are so vague that they are impossible to follow. .

“This language gives no indication of how imminent or how serious the risk of death is for a provider to feel confident” performing an abortion, said Alan Schoenfeld. “Suppose a patient with pulmonary hypertension has a 30-50% chance of dying…is that enough?”

But attorneys representing the state and the legislature told the court that abortion has historically been banned in Idaho since the state’s inception and argued that preventing the laws from taking effect would harm “children.” to be born”.

Blaine Conzatti, president of the anti-abortion group Idaho Family Policy Center, welcomed the decision.

“This is the day the pro-life movement has been working toward for decades,” Conzatti wrote in a press release, calling it “a big day for unborn babies.”

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood’s regional affiliate, said the organization will not stop its efforts.

“The Idaho State Legislature has made it clear that this is the future it wants for its constituents, and today the court made its vision a reality. But its fight n is not over,” Gibron said in a press release. “These cases and our fight to ensure that every Idahoan has access to safe, legal abortion care will continue.”

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