Idaho Supreme Court pushes abortion lawsuit hearing back one week

Planned Parenthood case will determine if state’s three abortion laws remain intact

By: - September 26, 2022 4:16 pm

The Idaho Supreme Court rescheduled Thursday’s hearing in the Planned Parenthood case against the state’s abortion laws to the following week on Oct. 6 because a member of the court is ill. (Otto Kitsinger for the Idaho Capital Sun)

The Idaho Supreme Court rescheduled Thursday’s hearing in the Planned Parenthood case against the state’s abortion laws to the following week on Oct. 6 because a member of the court is ill, according to a news release.

The hearing will determine which of Idaho’s abortion laws, if any, might be struck down by the Idaho Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Planned Parenthood filed three separate challenges against Idaho’s abortion laws — the trigger ban, the civil lawsuit enforcement bill dubbed the heartbeat law, and an abortion ban limiting abortions to six weeks of pregnancy, which was superseded when the complete abortion ban went into effect on Aug. 25. The court also elected to consolidate the three cases into one for the purposes of the upcoming hearing.

Next week’s hearing will be the first movement forward in the case since Aug. 12, when the court allowed Idaho’s trigger law banning abortion in nearly all cases to go into effect and dropped the pause on a law allowing civil lawsuits against medical providers who perform abortions.

Attorneys representing Planned Parenthood will have one hour to present oral arguments, and attorneys for the Idaho Attorney General’s office and the Idaho Legislature will split one hour for their own arguments, according to the order.

Monte Neil Stewart of Las Vegas, representing the Idaho Legislature, speaks to the Idaho Supreme Court regarding proceedings for two lawsuits pertaining to Idaho abortion laws. (Sarah Miller/Idaho Statesman)

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood have said the vagueness of the state’s trigger law language will lead to impossible situations for medical professionals to navigate, with no clarity on what would constitute a “good faith” judgment that led to an abortion in a medical emergency. 

According to the language of the trigger law, affirmative defenses are allowed for abortion in the case of rape, incest and to save the pregnant person’s life. An affirmative defense is not the same as an exception, and instead means that if someone is prosecuted under the trigger law, those situations are acceptable as a defense in court. In the case of rape or incest, the victim must also provide a copy of a police report. 

The case is happening alongside a separate lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the state of Idaho over the abortion trigger law. Justice Department officials said the law violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act — or EMTALA — which requires hospitals that receive payments for the federal Medicare program to provide medical care to stabilize all patients who come to the hospital with a medical emergency.

District Judge B. Lynn Winmill granted a request to block the ban from applying to emergency room situations one day before the trigger law went into effect, and another hearing has not yet been scheduled in the case. Attorneys for the Idaho Legislature and the Idaho Attorney General’s office have asked Winmill to reconsider the order, saying he misinterpreted the law.

Order Vacating and Resetting Oral Argument

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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.