It’s likely that virtually all abortions in deeply conservative Idaho, along with most other Republican-dominated states, will eventually be banned, but there are still battles in the courts and perhaps the legislature before that happens.
On Wednesday, attorneys representing a doctor and Planned Parenthood’s regional subsidiary will stand before the Idaho Supreme Court asking judges to block enforcement of three laws designed to restrict abortion.
Since the judgment of the Supreme Federal Court on June 24, with which the decision Roe v. Wade of 1973, the abortion fight continues in court, with judges deciding whether bans or other sweeping restrictions can be enforced.
The landscape changed almost daily. Abortion bans at any stage of pregnancy are enforced in eight states and as soon as fetal cardiac activity can be detected – usually around the sixth week of pregnancy – in another five. And most or all clinics have stopped offering abortion services in a handful of other states because of legal uncertainty.
Abortion rights groups, which have spent decades trying to maintain access in court, continue the fight even in places like Idaho, where they are unlikely to prevail in the long run.
In several cases, judges have stayed enforcement of bans and allowed at least some abortions to continue, at least for a period of time.
In Kentucky, where enforcement of a ban has halted and begun several times since June, enforcement was allowed to resume with a ruling Monday.
And in Louisiana, as of 2021, there were about 610 abortions per month. With the changing status, 249 were reported from June 24 to July 29. While that’s far less than normal during this period, the litigation has allowed access for some patients.
In the Idaho cases, Dr. Caitlin Gustafson and Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky the state over three laws. One due to take effect on August 19 would ban abortions for pregnancies beyond the sixth week of pregnancy, and one due to take effect on August 25 would effectively ban all abortions. A third law allows potential relatives of a fetus or embryo to sue medical providers who perform an abortion.
Although the six-week abortion ban both includes exceptions for procedures performed to save the life of the pregnant person or in cases of rape or incest, the exceptions set a very high bar that experts say will be difficult to meet. For example, people who use the rape or incest exception must report the crime to law enforcement and then submit that report to the abortion provider — but it often takes weeks or months to obtain a copy of a newly filed police report under Idaho’s public record legislation.
The full abortion ban would allow healthcare providers to be charged with a crime even when abortion is the only way to save their patient’s life – but healthcare providers could then attempt to defend themselves in court with evidence that the procedure was necessary because of an immediate medical emergency.
Gustafson and Planned Parenthood have argued in court documents that the medical emergency exceptions are vague and difficult or impossible to implement to care for a pregnant person whose life may be at risk. They say some situations — like when the placenta begins to detach from the uterine wall, causing risky bleeding, or when a pregnant person’s blood pressure shoots up — patients sometimes die or suffer long-term damage, but these results are it. t always safe.
The Physicians and Abortion Rights Group argues that the law allowing potential relatives of an embryo or fetus to sue abortion providers erroneously enforces a state law and puts it in the hands of individuals rather than state agencies, in violation of the government’s separation of powers represents . The law allows the father, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of a “premature child” to sue an abortion provider each for damages of at least $20,000 within four years of the abortion. Rapists cannot file a lawsuit under the law, but a rapist’s relatives can.
The Idaho Legislature and Attorney General of Idaho have countered that it is in the state’s best interest to prohibit abortion and that the Legislature has the right to legislate against abortion. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office has also argued that pro-choice advocates should take their fight to the ballot box, not the courts.
And the Idaho GOP passed a resolution during its annual meeting last month that opposes abortion in all cases — even if it’s done to save the mother’s life.
Still, abortion rights advocates have been shaken up in the wake of the US Supreme Court ruling. Abortion rights protests have drawn large crowds in Boise, and anti-abortion rallies are often held nearby. An abortion rights protest was scheduled to take place at the Statehouse on Wednesday night, set to begin a few hours after the state’s highest court concluded its hearing in the cases of Planned Parenthood.
The Boise City Council last month passed a resolution limiting funding for abortion investigations and noting that investigations prosecuting abortion providers are not prioritized.
AP contributors Sara Cline, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Geoff Mulvihill, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, contributed to this article.