Idaho Supreme Court hears arguments on 3 abortion laws
By REBECCA BOONE
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court on Thursday heard arguments in lawsuits involving three of Idaho’s abortion laws, sharply questioning lawyers about the value placed on a woman’s health pregnancy, the state’s interest in ensuring pregnancies are carried to term, and Idaho. long history of anti-abortion laws.
Earlier this year, the High Court allowed the laws to go into effect, and as a result, Idaho is one of many states where abortion is almost completely banned. A final ruling on the laws – including one that criminalizes all abortions but allows doctors to defend themselves by showing that the abortion was necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, one that criminalizes most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and one that allows even potential extended parents of a fetus or embryo to sue an abortion provider — could be handed down in the coming months.
“For 50 years, generations of Idaho women have had control of their bodies and their lives in the most intimate personal and private decision imaginable, whether it be carrying a pregnancy to term. or cut it off,” said Alan Schoenfeld, the attorney representing a regional association. Affiliated with Planned Parenthood, told in court. “The Idaho Legislature seeks to disrupt the lives of women and deny them this fundamental right – a right necessary to exercise many other rights that all Idahoans cherish.”
The Idaho Constitution recognizes that people have the right to privacy, bodily autonomy, and procreation, and the right to procreation was recognized by the state Supreme Court even before the right to abortion is enshrined in Roe v. Wade, Schoenfeld said.
But Judge Gregory Moeller disputed this idea.
“It would seem to me that procreation would be the opposite of abortion,” the justice said.
Schoenfeld countered that the right to procreation includes the right to decide to do anything, and that the decision itself is protected by constitutional promises of freedom, security and confidentiality.
“The decision of whether or not to submit your body to the 40 weeks of labor that pregnancy entails, I think, is respected by the Constitution,” the lawyer said.
Megan Larrondo, the assistant attorney general representing the state, said the right to liberty does not include the right to end another human life. The right to freedom must have limits, she said, “because he could go crazy.”
Judge John Stegner asked whether protecting the health of the mother should be one of those limits.
“You seem to be arguing that the unborn life takes precedence over the woman who has become pregnant,” Stegner told Larrondo.
When it comes to choosing between the life of the fetus and the life of the mother, the life of the mother must come first, Larrondo told the court. But when it comes to choosing between the life of the fetus and the health of the mother, the life of the fetus must be protected even at the cost of the health of the mother, she said.
Judge Colleen Zahn asked pointed questions about the state’s assertion that Idaho has a “compelling interest” in protecting the lives of “unborn children.” Idaho is one of the few states that protects parents from civil or criminal lawsuits when a child dies of an easily treatable illness if the parents say the medical treatment is against their religious beliefs.
A small Christian sect in southwestern Idaho that eschews medical treatment in favor of prayer has seen several children die of treatable illnesses like infections or pneumonia in recent years. Idaho lawmakers have consistently rejected efforts to change faith healing laws, despite testimonies from law enforcement officers and former cult members about dead children or permanently disabled by what would be considered medical negligence in other communities.
“Doesn’t the state have a compelling interest in saving the lives of those children born who could be saved?” Zahn asked. “I’m not sure the state consistently asserts ‘compelling state interest’.”
But Larrondo said it was reasonable to treat faith healing and abortion deaths differently because one is the result of a lack of procedure to address a health condition while the other is a procedure designed specifically to end a life.
Monte Stewart, the attorney representing the Idaho Legislature, urged the justices to follow the reasoning set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in overturning Roe v. Wade.
Any ruling acknowledging that there is a “fundamental right at stake” for pregnant women would turn the state’s highest court into lawmakers rather than judges, Stewart said.
Idaho’s legal battles over abortion are unfolding on multiple fronts. The US Department of Justice sued the state in federal court earlier this year, alleging that one of the laws criminalizing nearly all abortions violates a federal health care law that requires Medicare-funded hospitals to provide stabilizing health care to patients in medical emergencies. A federal judge has temporarily barred the state from applying this law in cases involving medical emergencies.
The Satanic Temple has also sued the state in federal court because the non-theistic religious group claims that laws banning abortion interfere with members’ right to freely exercise their religious beliefs. The Satanic Temple does not believe in a literal Satan, but sees the figure as a metaphor for the fight against religious tyranny. The religious organization says one of its central beliefs is that people have the right to control their own bodies, and that includes abortions for unwanted pregnancies.
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