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Idaho Supreme Court upholds near-total abortion ban

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In a five to two decision the Idaho Supreme Court has upheld a near-total abortion ban.

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robyn Brody argued in her majority opinion that there is no implicit right to abortion in the Idaho State Constitution and the state’s founders never intended for abortion to be protected.

“Abortion was a procedure known to the framers in 1889,” Brody wrote. “Thus, determining their intent on this topic is neither difficult nor speculative, unlike more contemporary issues likely never envisioned in the nineteenth century, such as regulation of the Internet, airwaves, bitcoin, and drones. We can discern the framers’ intent regarding abortion, not because we can read their minds, but because we can read the laws they passed before and after the 1889 convention, newspapers of the time, and medical journals.”

Idaho’s bill only allows for exceptions if the life of the mother is in danger, or if a rape has been reported to the police and the survivor has a copy the police report.

The court also upheld a law that allowed family members of the fetus to sue a medical provider who performed the procedure for a minimum of $20,000 dollars, saying the legislature didn’t overstep its authority and the law doesn’t violate medical providers' right to equal protection.

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Colleen Zahn dissented, saying the Idaho Constitution includes protections for the life and safety of pregnant women and they should have the right to obtain an abortion to preserve their health.

“Considering this history, and the inescapable reality that time brings developments that our founders could not have contemplated, we should look to Idaho’s history and traditions to determine the framers’ intent but not be locked into examining those rights only according to the circumstances in which they existed circa 1890,” Zahn wrote.

Republicans in Idaho are celebrating the decision. In a statement Thursday evening, Idaho GOP Chairwoman Dorothy Moon praised the court.

“The Idaho Supreme Court followed the basic cannons of constitutional interpretation and found that our constitution does not include an implied right to abort the unborn,” Moon said. “We applaud this decision and, more importantly, the reasoning that undergirds it. Our fight is not over, however. We ask all Idahoans to remain vigilant and committed to defending life.”

Planned Parenthood was the plaintiff in the lawsuit to overturn the ban, and has argued it put patients lives in danger.

Paul Dillon, the Vice President of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, said in an interview Thursday that clinics had seen an 50% increase in the demand for services since the law went into effect.

He said Eastern Washington clinics are prepared to care for the continued influx of patients.

“It’s really important to remember that even though these bans remain in effect in Idaho, patients still have options to access the care that they need,” Dillon said. “And we can see patients who are traveling, and we will continue to do so and will never stop fighting for a person's ability to control their own life and their future.”

He noted that there are several proposals in the Washington legislature that could increase abortion protections for patients traveling from other states, including a data privacy bill and an increase in funds for clinics.