Idaho Supreme Court upholds state law banning most abortions

By Catholic News Service | August 19, 2022

A pro-life sign is displayed during the 2019 annual March for Life rally in Washington. On Aug. 12, 2022, the Idaho Supreme Court upheld the state’s ban on abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

BOISE, Idaho (CNS) — The Idaho Supreme Court Aug. 12 upheld a state law that bans abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. The law will take effect Aug. 25.

A Planned Parenthood affiliate had challenged the ban, saying it violates Idahoans’ right to privacy and equal protection under the state constitution.

Writing for the majority in the 3-2 decision, Justice Robin Brody said Planned Parenthood was asking the court ultimately “to declare a right to abortion under the Idaho Constitution when — on its face — there is none.”

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Idaho Supreme Court on the abortion ban, the statewide Diocese of Boise said it “supports laws that recognize the sanctity of human life, including an unborn child’s fundamental right to life.”

Deacon Gene Fadness, diocesan spokesperson, told the Idaho Capital Sun news outlet that “in the Catholic tradition, all human life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death,” which means the church opposes abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment.

“There are exceptions in those rare circumstances when an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother,” Fadness said. “However, because all human life is sacred, we don’t believe the innocent child who is conceived as a result of a rape or incest should have its life eliminated.”

“One violent and horrific act does not deserve yet another,” he added.

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Idaho in federal court over the near-total abortion ban, but there has been no ruling yet in that case.

In Louisiana, in an ongoing legal fight against a complete ban on abortion, the state Supreme Court ruled Aug. 12 the ban can remain in effect. The “trigger law” was designed to take effect when and if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which happened June 24 in the court’s ruling in the Dobbs case from Mississippi.

The lawyer representing three abortion clinics who sued to stop Louisiana’s ban said the state court’s ruling “will effectively deny critical care to women throughout Louisiana.”

The plaintiffs said provisions of the ban are “contradictory and unconstitutionally vague” and have filed suit in state court against Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and the state’s state health secretary, Courtney Phillips.

In an Aug. 12 tweet, Landry, a Catholic, said he was “pleased” with the state Supreme Court’s decision “and will continue fighting to end this legal circus.”

Other developments on state abortion laws included an Aug. 17 ruling by U.S. District Judge William Osteen in North Carolina that allows a state law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy to be reinstated.

In 2019, Osteen had stopped the law from being enforced, stating the ban was unconstitutional in light of Roe v. Wade. An appeals court upheld that decision in 2021.

With the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe in its June 24 Dobbs ruling, Osteen in his new order said: “Under Dobbs, there is now no constitutional right to a pre-viability abortion, thus depriving the injunction of any constitutional basis from which to enjoin the challenged North Carolina laws regulating abortion.”

Next door in South Carolina, the state’s Supreme Court blocked a six-week abortion ban in effect since June 27. The Aug. 17 ruling granted a temporary injunction requested by abortion clinics because litigation continues on the law.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law Aug. 5 that will ban most abortions in Indiana. The Indiana House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day.

The new law, which goes into effect Sept. 15, allows exceptions for when the life of the mother is at risk and for fatal fetal anomalies, up to 20 weeks post-fertilization. It also provides exceptions for some abortions if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

In Kansas, a partial hand recount was underway of votes cast Aug. 2 on an abortion referendum that was soundly defeated.

The Value Them Both amendment would have reversed the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that found a right to unlimited and unrestricted abortion in the state’s 1859 constitution. Fifty-nine percent of Kansans, or 534,134, voted against the amendment, while 41%, or 374,611, voted for it.

News reports said nine of the state’s 105 counties were doing the recount at the request of Colby, Kansas, resident Melissa Leavitt, “who has pushed for tighter election laws.” A Wichita, Kansas, pro-life activist was paying for most of the cost to do it.

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