Door to the Office of the Attorney General at the Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:22 a.m. April 14 with additional comments from Blaine Conzatti and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, and at 11:15 a.m. April 15 with comments from Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden on Wednesday issued a press release to publicly dispute a claim by Idaho Family Policy Center President Blaine Conzatti regarding Wasden’s legal defense of the state’s new abortion law, styled after a similar law in Texas.
The law, Senate Bill 1309, passed the Idaho Legislature this session and was signed into law by Gov. Brad Little on March 23. Little said he believed the law, which allows family members of abortion patients to sue the patient’s health care provider, used a flawed mechanism and was likely to invite court challenges.
A week later, a regional chapter of Planned Parenthood filed suit over the law.
The Idaho Supreme Court on Friday paused the law’s implementation, as it considers the legal challenge.
Conzatti claimed in an article posted on the policy center’s website, and in a mass email to the policy center’s subscribers, that “the Idaho Attorney General cut a deal with Planned Parenthood, in which both parties agreed to let the court temporarily block the law in exchange for slowing down court proceedings.”
That was false, Wasden’s office said in the news release, adding, “Conzatti has since apologized to the office for the false representation.”
Conzatti on Thursday told the Idaho Capital Sun that Wasden’s own characterization of what happened is inaccurate. He said his claim is based on court documents.
“In no way did I perpetuate false claims, and any assertion to the contrary is just laughable and ridiculous,” Conzatti said Thursday.
“All I did was summarize what the court record says,” he said.
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The Sun reviewed documents from Idaho Supreme Court case. In those documents:
- Wasden’s office argues that expediting the case would be unwise, because of its importance and novel nature; and suggests other legal routes that could satisfy Planned Parenthood’s request to keep the law from blocking Planned Parenthood’s work while the court considers their lawsuit.
- Planned Parenthood says it would be “not opposed to” the route of delaying implementation of the law while the case proceeds.
- The Supreme Court in its order says, “The parties having both requested action by this Court to preserve the status quo to give the parties the ability to adequately brief this case …”
“It would be prudent to preserve the status quo and allow both sides the time necessary to thoroughly brief the constitutional claims, rather than require them to rush to meet an unnecessarily short deadline, particularly before a court of last resort reviewing a case of first impression,” one of the briefs submitted by Wasden’s office said.
Katie Rodihan, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, said the allegation that Planned Parenthood misrepresented anything in court documents is false. Rodihan said Planned Parenthood agreed with the attorney general’s suggestion to delay the law’s implementation, and the court was correct to say that the parties agreed.
“It seems like this is a political move by the attorney general to appeal to an extremist group at our expense,” Rodihan told the Sun on Friday. “It’s just blatantly inaccurate.”
Conzatti said that if the court order was wrong in saying both sides “requested” its action, then he believes Wasden should tell the court it was wrong.
“There is no agreement,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane told the Sun on Thursday. “If you read through the briefing, it’s very clear that we didn’t agree to anything, and (that claim) remains false. The attorney general is committed to defending Senate Bill 1309 substantively and procedurally in this Idaho Supreme Court case.”
In the press release Wednesday, Wasden said Conzatti apologized “during a meeting in which my attorneys discussed with him his intentions of having his organization join our defense of the bill through an amicus brief. This was a good faith effort on my part to work with an outside organization that shares a legal interest in this case similar to that of the state’s.”
Megan Larrondo, the deputy attorney general who filed briefs referenced by Conzatti, told the Sun that she met with him and other people Monday, went through the records and “explained to him why they did not demonstrate that the state was agreeing to a stay.”
Wasden said nobody in his office made a deal with Planned Parenthood, nor did he.
“As the Attorney General, my statutorily-mandated role as the state’s chief legal officer includes defense of state laws when they’re challenged in court,” Wasden said in the news release. “Upon the filing of the suit, my office began a vigorous defense of the new law. That defense continues today.”
The claim stemmed from a misrepresentation in a court document filed by Planned Parenthood, Wasden said. The misrepresentation made its way into the high court’s order to pause implementation of the law, he said.
“Planned Parenthood’s misrepresentation and the similar language used by the court in its order likely prompted Conzatti’s email,” Wasden’s office said in the news release. “However, upon being made aware of the facts of the matter, neither he, nor his organization, have corrected the false narrative.”
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