The Idaho Supreme Court building in Boise on March 20, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
The Idaho Supreme Court denied a request on Monday from the American Center for Law & Justice and Stanton Healthcare to file an amicus brief in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit against Idaho’s newest abortion law, nearly two weeks after denying the same request from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise.
Stanton Healthcare is a clinic in Boise with a mission of ending abortion and providing free services to women who become pregnant unexpectedly. The clinic has built facilities next to Planned Parenthood locations in Boise and Meridian. The American Center for Law & Justice is a politically conservative, Christian activist organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., founded by evangelical pastor Pat Robertson.
The law, Senate Bill 1309, is modeled after similar legislation in Texas and allows civil lawsuits against medical professionals who provide abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound, which is generally by six weeks of pregnancy. The bill passed the Idaho Legislature. Gov. Brad Little signed it into law on March 23, but not without saying he had reservations about the civil lawsuit mechanism, and he expected it would be challenged in court.
A week later, a regional chapter of Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit challenging the law, and the Idaho Supreme Court granted a pause on the law’s implementation while it considers the case.
Sara Omundson, administrative director of Idaho courts, said the decision to grant or deny amicus brief requests is entirely within the discretion of the Idaho Supreme Court. An amicus brief is an opportunity for a third-party group or organization to present a viewpoint for the court to consider, particularly if there are details or arguments to consider that may not be presented in court by the parties directly involved in the suit, she said.
It’s different from a petition to intervene, Omundson said, which the court granted to the Idaho Legislature on April 18. Idaho Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, and Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, are now named parties in court documents.
“An intervention means, although those two (other parties) started the suit, we have our own interest in the outcome of the case,” Omundson said. “There’s an actual impact on us based on the outcome of this case, and they have their own legal interest in ensuring certain issues are addressed or raised.”
In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood said the law would not only deny Idahoans a constitutional right to abortion, but it would also eliminate access for those who do not have the time or money to travel out of state for care. It would also disproportionately affect communities of color, the group said.
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