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Women ask Idaho judge to find abortion exceptions in constitution

People holding signs showing support for abortion rights in Boise, Idaho.
Richard Rodriguez
Boise State Public Radio
People advocating for abortion rights in Boise, ID in this undated file photo. Advocates are asking a state judge to find that the Idaho Constitution has an implied right to an abortion to protect the health of mothers during pregnancy.

An Ada County district court judge said he’ll decide in the next month whether to toss out a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s abortion exemptions.

State law currently only allows doctors in Idaho to abort a fetus if the life of the mother is in danger, along with in the cases of rape and incest.

Four women who had to seek abortions outside of Idaho sued the state in September. They all had health complications related to their pregnancies.

In a hearing Thursday morning, lawyers for the women and doctors said the Idaho Constitution implies mothers have a right to an abortion when their health is threatened – not just when her life is in danger.

They point to the very first article of the state constitution. It says all men have certain inalienable rights, including enjoying life, pursuing happiness and securing safety.

Medical doctors treating pregnant women need to be able to have discretion, said Marc Hearron, an attorney representing the plaintiffs on behalf of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Physicians, Hearron said, are currently overly cautious about complying with the law because it could result in a felony conviction, as well as the suspension or revocation of their medical license.

“An objective standard doesn’t work in day-to-day medical practice,” he said, noting that doctors are afraid.

Jim Craig, the head of the Idaho Attorney General’s civil and constitutional defense division, rejected that argument.

“[Doctors] are called upon every day to make life and death decisions,” and it’s no different with abortions, said Craig.

Such an argument, he said, is “meritless.”

In court documents asking Ada County District Court Judge Jason Scott to dismiss the case, Craig wrote that the Idaho Supreme Court found “…in no uncertain terms” there isn’t a right to an abortion in the state constitution.

Arguments made by the women and doctors, he wrote, are “…simply repackaged and regurgitated” from that failed case filed by Planned Parenthood in 2022.

Judge Scott said he will likely rule on the motion to dismiss sometime in January.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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