Idaho Anti-Abortion Law Struck Down

Idaho’s anti-abortion law was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal appeals court Friday following the 2011 criminal prosecution of a woman who had a self-induced abortion.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that found Idaho’s Pain-Capable Unborn child Protection Act, which bans abortions of 20 weeks or more after conception, places an undue burden on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.

Jennie McCormack sued following a May 2011 criminal charge in Bannock County for alleged violation of the law.  McCormack admitted to police that she self-induced an abortion after taking a pack of five pills that she purchased online for medically induced abortions, knowing that abortion was illegal in Idaho.

The criminal complaint was dismissed the same year by a state court judge, but McCormack filed a federal class action lawsuit challenging the law.

The Idaho law not only bans abortions at 20 weeks or later, but also requires that second-trimester abortions be performed in a hospital and that first trimester abortions take place in a medical office, properly staffed and with arrangements for acute hospital care of complications.

The appeals court held the time constraint was unconstitutional because it categorically bans some abortions that are pre-viability of the fetus.  The hospital requirement was unconstitutional because it placed an undue burden on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion and finally the medical offices requirement was struck down as unconstitutionally vague.

The challenge included McCormack’s attorney, who is also a doctor who performs abotions.  He also had standing to challenge the medical office reqirement of the law.

The opinion was written by Judge Harry Pregerson, joined by Judge Kim Wardlaw and visiting Judge Donald Walter of Louisiana.

Case: McCormack v. Herzog, No. 13-35401



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