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Idaho presses 9th Circuit to reverse court ruling overturning state’s ‘fetal pain’ abortion law Edit

Idaho argued its appeal in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today of a federal judge's ruling overturning the state's “fetal pain” abortion law that sought to ban all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Idaho was one of seven states to enact such laws in 2011; it was voided by a federal judge in March of 2013 as unconstitutional. Jennie Linn McCormack, an eastern Idaho woman, and Richard Hearn, an attorney and medical doctor, sued the state after she was charged with felony illegal abortion because prosecutors said she took an abortion-causing drug obtained over the Internet to terminate a pregnancy that was past the 20-week mark. In its appeal, the state contended McCormick couldn't argue the law put an undue burden on women because charges against her had been dropped and the case was moot. But that argument drew sharp questions Friday from the appeals court judges to Deputy Idaho Attorney General Clay Smith immediately drew sharp questions Friday, especially after it was determined the 5-year statute of limitations on the charge initially faced by McCormick hasn't expired. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Keith Ridler.

Idaho ordered to pay another $376K in attorney fees re overturned abortion law

The state of Idaho has again been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees after losing a court battle over the Legislature's latest anti-abortion law, the Associated Press reports, with the tab now rising to more than $1 million since 2000. The latest bill comes in a lawsuit over Idaho's fetal pain law and other abortion restrictions; U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill ruled Thursday that the state owes more than $376,000 to attorneys for Jennie Linn McCormack, who sued over she was charged with a felony last year for allegedly having an illegal abortion. The Pocatello woman won her case last year, overturning several Idaho abortion restrictions.

Idaho won't have to pay that bill immediately because an appeal over some aspects of the case is still pending in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reports AP reporter Rebecca Boone. If the state wins that appeal, it could reduce the amount it owes McCormack's attorneys. But if Idaho loses, it could result in a double-down of sorts with the state ordered to pay McCormack's appellate costs, as well; click below for Boone's full report.

Idaho first state to have ‘fetal pain’ abortion law overturned in court

Idaho is the first of 10 states that have enacted 'fetal pain' abortion laws since 2010 to have its law overturned, the Associated Press reports today. Yesterday's ruling from U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill also struck down two other Idaho laws dealing with abortion. Arizona also has a fetal pain law that's being challenged in court; the Idaho case could affect that, as both states are within the 9th Circuit. The other states that have enacted such laws are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Federal court strikes down Idaho’s ‘fetal pain’ abortion law, plus two others

Idaho's 'fetal pain' abortion law, banning abortions after 20 weeks based on the disputed idea that a fetus at that point can feel pain, has been overturned in federal court as unconstitutional. The law, passed in 2011, was found to be an undue burden on a woman's right to have an abortion. U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill, in a 42-page decision, found “compelling evidence of the legislature's 'improper purpose' in enacting it,” writing, “The state may not rely on its interest in the potential life of the fetus to place a substantial obstacle to abortion before viability in women's paths.”

The ruling also strikes down two other Idaho laws regarding abortion, one requiring that first-trimester abortions be performed by a physician in a staffed office, thereby making drug-induced abortions illegal; and one that criminalizes women who have abortions. “Historically, abortion statutes sought to protect pregnant females from third parties providing dangerous abortions,” the judge wrote. “As a result, most states' abortion laws traditionally criminalized the behavior of third parties to protect the health of pregnant women — they did not punish women for obtaining an abortion. By punishing women, Idaho's abortion statute is therefore unusual.” Click below for a full report from AP reporters Rebecca Boone and Todd Dvorak.

9th Circuit says part of Idaho abortion law likely is unconstitutional

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today ruled that Idaho's law imposing felony penalties on women who obtain abortions in the state that don't follow all the state's legal guidelines likely is unconstitutional, a win for a Pocatello woman who was charged after obtaining abortion drugs over the Internet and inducing an abortion. “There can be no doubt that requiring women to explore the intricacies of state abortion statutes to ensure that they and their provider act within the Idaho abortion statute framework results in an 'undue burden' on a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus,” the appeals court wrote in its decision. That leaves in place an injunction barring a prosecutor from reimposing the charges against the woman, which had been dropped but could be refiled.

However, the court also ruled that the woman didn't have standing to challenge another Idaho abortion law, banning all abortions after 20 weeks on the basis of presumed fetal pain; that law was passed after her case occurred, and exempts the pregnant woman from its criminal penalties, instead imposing them on providers. The woman's attorney, who also is a physician, still is challenging that law. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone; you can read the court's ruling here.

Idaho fetal-pain abortion law, passed last year, faces federal court challenge

The first challenge to the constitutionality of the so-called fetal pain anti-abortion laws enacted in several states has come from an unlikely place; so has the second, reports the Associated Press. Rick Hearn, the lawyer in the center of this fight, represents an Idaho woman challenging her state's abortion laws in an effort to avoid future prosecution. The same Rick Hearn, who also is a physician, is attempting to jump into the case as a plaintiff using his status as a doctor, even though he has never terminated a pregnancy, in an effort to make sure that if the case is successful, it applies broadly enough to get his client off the hook for good, reports AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Idaho is among more than half a dozen states that have recently passed legislation banning abortion after 19 weeks of pregnancy based on disputed scientific testimony about ability of fetuses to feel pain at 20 weeks. Idaho's law passed last year; it's now being challenged in federal court. Click below for Boone's full report.

Idaho abortion case an uneasy one for both sides…

NPR reporter Jessica Robinson reports that the arrest of a Pocatello women for using RU-486 purchased on the Internet to self-administer an illegal abortion is proving to be an uneasy one for both sides in the abortion issue. Even as Jennie Linn McCormack prepares to take her case to federal court - and her attorney says he's willing to take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court - neither pro-choice nor pro-life groups are making much of the case, for a variety of reasons. You can read Robinson's full report here.
  

Federal judge issues restraining order in Idaho abortion law challenge

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order to keep a prosecutor from refiling charges against a woman accused of having an illegal abortion. Jennie Linn McCormack sued over Idaho's so-called “fetal pain” law banning abortions after 20 weeks and over a law that effectively prohibits women in her region from getting a medication-induced abortion. She filed the lawsuit in federal court after Bannock County Prosecutor Mark Heideman charged her with a felony, saying she obtained an abortion drug over the internet and administered it to herself. Those charges were later dropped without prejudice, allowing the prosecutor to refile the charge if he chose. On Friday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a 14-day restraining order barring the prosecutor from refiling charges as McCormack's federal lawsuit moves forward.

Pocatello woman sues over Idaho’s ‘fetal pain’ abortion law

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An eastern Idaho woman who was briefly charged with having an illegal abortion is suing in federal court, contending that Idaho's so-called “fetal pain” law and other abortion bans violate the U.S. Constitution. Jennie McCormack's lawsuit against Bannock County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Hiedeman is believed to be the first to directly challenge the constitutionality of a new Idaho ban on abortions done after 20 weeks, based on the premise that a fetus may feel pain at that point. Idaho is one of six states that have enacted the bans. Heideman could not be immediately reached for comment. McCormack was charged with a felony in June after police said the Pocatello woman took pills to terminate her pregnancy last December. A judge later dismissed the criminal case for lack of evidence. Click below for the full AP report.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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