The Idaho Constitution does not implicitly enshrine abortion as a fundamental right, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in dismissing a series of lawsuits filed by Planned Parenthood.
The ruling was a blow to those fighting Idaho laws that went into effect in August, including one criminalizing all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy except to save the life of a pregnant person or for rape or Incest.
“This is a dark day for the state of Idaho. But our fight is far from over,” Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood and a family doctor filed three lawsuits against the governor and leaders of the Legislature to block new abortion bans. One of the laws allows potential family members of a fetus to sue a healthcare professional who performs an abortion. Another made it a crime for medical professionals to perform an abortion after detecting electrical activity. And a third effectively banned all abortions but allowed doctors to defend themselves in court by proving the abortion was performed to save their patient’s life.
The Idaho Supreme Court heard arguments for all of the lawsuits in a joint hearing last year. Thursday’s verdict applied to all three cases.
Planned Parenthood claimed the laws violated constitutional principles such as equal protection and fair trial, the Supreme Court justices found.
But a majority of the judges said in the verdict that the state constitution does not provide for a fundamental right to an abortion.
“Ever since Idaho gained statehood in 1890, this court has repeatedly and steadfastly interpreted the Idaho Constitution on the basis of the plain and ordinary meaning of its text,” the judges said.
If they took the plunge and concluded that the document implicitly protects abortion rights, the constitution would be “effectively replaced by the voice of a select few who sit on this court,” the judges claimed.
Idaho Supreme Court Justices Colleen Zahn and John Stegner disagreed with the majority opinion. Zahn said, “The Idaho Constitution did not freeze the rights as they existed in 1890.”
“We should look to the history and traditions of Idaho to determine the intentions of the drafters, but not be fixated on examining these rights only in terms of the circumstances in which they existed circa 1890,” Zahn wrote.
In his dissent, Stegner pointed to the impact of pregnancy on women, saying the majority opinion “robs Idaho’s women of their most basic rights.”
“Idaho women have a fundamental right to abortion because pregnancy—and whether that pregnancy can be terminated—profoundly impacts pregnant women’s inalienable right to liberty, life, and security,” Stegner wrote.
The bans in Idaho have increased pressure on abortion facilities in neighboring Oregon, where abortion rights are protected.
In South Carolina, the state Supreme Court on Thursday overturned an abortion ban after heart activity was found, ruling that the restriction violated a constitutional right to privacy.
The South Carolina court said the state has authority to limit the right to privacy, which protects a woman from state interference in her decision, but any limitation must allow a woman sufficient time to determine that she is pregnant and “reasonable To take steps to terminate this pregnancy.”
The Idaho Supreme Court said its case was narrowly focused.
“All we are deciding today is that the Idaho Constitution, as it stands, does not contain a fundamental right to abortion,” Judge Robyn Brody wrote in the majority opinion.
Brody said Idaho’s new anti-abortion laws are “rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in protecting prenatal fetal life at all stages of development.”
The Idaho laws came about after the US Supreme Court ruled last year in Roe v. Wade had repealed the right to an abortion under the US Constitution.
A small portion of one of Idaho’s abortion bans was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in a separate case.
Anti-abortion advocates applauded the Idaho court’s decision.
“Today is a great day for precious premature babies in Idaho,” said Blaine Conzatti, president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, a conservative Christian research and education organization.
Planned Parenthood said the court’s ruling would particularly affect people who already face the greatest barriers to health care because of a legacy of racism and discrimination, including people of color, low-income people, immigrants and others.