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Idaho Supreme Court temporarily blocks implementation of new abortion law


Idaho Supreme Court temporarily blocks implementation of new abortion law

Apr 08, 2022 | 8:09 pm ET
By Clark Corbin
Idaho Supreme Court temporarily blocks implementation of new abortion law
The Idaho Supreme Court building in Boise on March 20, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The Idaho Supreme Court issued an order Friday temporarily blocking the implementation of a new Texas-style abortion law, as the court prepares to review a legal challenge to Idaho’s law. 

Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice G. Richard Bevan signed the order that stayed implementation of Senate Bill 1309, which would allow relatives to sue a medical professional who performs an abortion after cardiac activity is detected, for a minimum of $20,000. The law is modeled after a Texas abortion law and expands on Idaho’s existing Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act, which the Idaho Legislature passed via House Bill 366 in 2021. 

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion saying the law would likely prohibit almost all abortions in Idaho and would likely be found unconstitutional if challenged in court. 

Gov. Brad Little signed Senate Bill 1309 into law on March 23 after writing that he supports the pro-life policy of the bill but worried it would “be proven both unconstitutional and unwise.”

Days later, on March 29, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest filed a petition with the Idaho Supreme Court seeking to block the law’s implementation and have it thrown out and declared unconstitutional.

The law’s supporters say Senate Bill 1309 would reduce the number of abortions. 

But in its legal petition, Planned Parenthood argued the bill is an unprecedented power grab that would wreak havoc on the lives of Idahoans and their rights. 

“SB 1309’s enforcement mechanism and substance are blatantly unconstitutional, so much so that Idaho’s Attorney General’s Office released an opinion to this effect, and the Governor emphasized similar concerns upon signing,” Planned Parenthood’s attorneys wrote. “Even setting aside the fundamental right to privacy in making intimate familial decisions guaranteed by Idaho’s Constitution, the bill’s flaws are flagrant and many: It violates the separation of powers doctrine (Art. II, § 1); Idaho’s prohibition on special legislation (Art. III, § 19); the due process clause’s prohibition on excessive and vague penalties (Art. I, § 13); the guarantee of informational privacy (Art. I, §§ 1, 2, 17, 21); and the equal protection clause (Art. I, §§ 1, 2). SB 1309 should be invalidated for any of these independent reasons alone. Yet it goes one step further, effectively banning abortions before viability in Idaho, in violation of Petitioners’ patients’ rights under nearly fifty years of precedent.”

Reached late Friday afternoon, Little’s press secretary, Marissa Morrison-Hyer, said Little’s office does not comment on pending litigation. 

Planned Parenthood leaders issued a statement welcoming the Idaho Supreme Court’s order.

“Patients across Idaho can breathe a sigh of relief tonight,” Rebecca Gibron, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, said in a written statement. “We are thrilled that abortion will remain accessible in the state for now, but our fight to ensure that Idahoans can fully access their constitutionally protected rights is far from over. Anti-abortion lawmakers have made clear that they will stop at nothing to control our lives, our bodies and our futures. Planned Parenthood will continue fighting for every person’s ability to access basic health care, no matter their race, ZIP code, or economic status. We look forward to our day in court.”

The law would have become effective April 22 without the Idaho Supreme Court’s new order temporarily blocking its implementation while the court reviews the law.