Planned Parenthood Northwest sues Idaho AG over abortion-related legal opinion

Attorney general’s opinion violates due process and commerce clause, organization says

By: - April 5, 2023 4:05 pm
Abortion and the judicial system graphic

Idaho’s abortion ban applies to any stage of pregnancy, with affirmative defenses for cases of rape and incest with an accompanying police report and if an abortion is necessary to save a patient’s life. (Photo illustration by Getty Images)

Planned Parenthood Great Northwest has filed a federal lawsuit against Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador’s office following a legal opinion issued last week that stated medical professionals in Idaho could be subject to criminal penalties for referring patients to abortion care across state lines.

The complaint, which is filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood itself as well as two Idaho physicians, Drs. Caitlin Gustafson and Darin Weyhrich. Gustafson was also the named physician in Planned Parenthood’s unsuccessful lawsuits against Idaho’s abortion laws.

Emily Kleinworth, spokesperson for Labrador’s office, said via email that the office would not comment on pending litigation and looked forward to addressing Planned Parenthood’s arguments in court.

Labrador issued the legal opinion on March 27 after Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, requested it earlier this year on behalf of anti-abortion clinic Stanton Healthcare. Labrador said abortion pills are included in the state’s abortion ban, and that medical professionals who supply them are subject to Idaho’s criminal penalties, including those who refer or prescribe abortion pills to pregnant patients across state lines. The opinion states that the use of any means to carry out an abortion is prohibited.

Idaho’s abortion ban applies to any stage of pregnancy, with affirmative defenses for cases of rape and incest with an accompanying police report and if an abortion is necessary to save a patient’s life. But Idaho is surrounded by several states where abortion is legal, including Washington, Oregon and Montana.

“Labrador’s interpretation attempts to bring plainly First Amendment-protected activity within the ambit of the total abortion ban,” the complaint reads. “Moreover, his interpretation depends on the assertion that Idaho law punishes abortions performed outside of Idaho — a clear due process and dormant commerce clause violation.”

Planned Parenthood’s complaint states the two named physicians provide comprehensive reproductive health care consistent with Idaho state laws, which includes consulting with and advising patients about available medical treatments consistent with their ethical and legal obligations.

“As a result of Labrador’s letter, Dr. Gustafson, Dr. Weyhrich, and Planned Parenthood’s Idaho health center providers and other staff have ceased having comprehensive conversations with their patients about out-of-state abortion options and no longer provide patients with information about out-of-state resources or recommend to them out-of-state providers who can offer them abortion care,” the complaint says.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also assigned legal representation to the case.

“The opinion issued by Attorney General Labrador is blatantly unconstitutional and a dangerous threat to pregnant people in Idaho and the health care providers who they rely on,” said Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, in a statement. “This brazen attack on the reproductive freedom of Idahoans will not stand. We hope the court will recognize the clear constitutional violations of this action and immediately stop it from being enforced.”

The complaint asks the court to issue a temporary restraining order against Labrador’s legal direction and block any entities from enforcing it. The case was filed in Idaho District Court and is assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Debora K. Gresham. A hearing will likely be scheduled in the coming weeks.


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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.