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Judge hears arguments in out-of-state abortion referral lawsuit against Attorney General

Gage Skidmore
Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge in Boise is considering whether Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador could enforce a recent opinion that doctors could be criminally charged for referring patients to out-of-state abortion providers.

In their filing, Planned Parenthood argued the opinion violated doctors’ First Amendment rights. The letter stated Idaho law could punish providers for abortions performed outside of state limits.

The Attorney General’s office withdrew the opinion shortly after it was first released in March but representatives for the plaintiffs say providers have continued reasons to fear prosecution and license revocation.

“As Judge Winmill said, you know, you can't put the genie back in the bottle,” said Planned Parenthood attorney Catherine Payton Humphreysville in a press call following the hearing.

At the hearing on Monday, the AG’s representative Lincoln Wilson repeatedly argued the letter was meant to be a private communication addressed to Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa), but was released publicly by a third party.

Wilson told Judge Lynn Winmill nothing about it constituted a threat to doctors.

“The attorney general's quote-unquote withdrawal of his letter on procedural grounds doesn't mean that he's disavowed the substance of his opinion,” Payton Humphreyville said.

Winmill is considering whether to temporarily block enforcement of the legal opinion as the case moves forward and is expected to make a decision in the next week.

I joined Boise State Public Radio in 2022 as the Canyon County reporter through Report for America, to report on the growing Latino community in Idaho. I am very invested in listening to people’s different perspectives and I am very grateful to those who are willing to share their stories with me. It’s a privilege and I do not take it for granted.

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