Federal Appeals Court Temporarily Limits Idaho’s Near-Total Abortion Ban

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
October 10, 2023US News
Federal Appeals Court Temporarily Limits Idaho’s Near-Total Abortion Ban
A file photograph of a judge's gavel. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images)

A federal appeals court on Tuesday temporarily limited Idaho’s near-total abortion ban during ongoing legal proceedings involving a challenge from the Biden administration.

Last month, a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had allowed the state to enforce its ban.

However, the court has now chosen to hear the case “en banc,” or with a full panel of judges. This decision has temporarily halted the enforcement of the abortion ban in medical emergencies.

“Upon the vote of a majority of nonrecused active judges, it is ordered that this matter be reheard en banc,” the order stated.

In August last year, the Biden administration sued Idaho, arguing that the state’s ban contradicted the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law mandating that hospitals must “stabilize” patients facing emergency medical conditions.

The administration contended that the EMTALA could necessitate abortions beyond those covered by Idaho’s limited exception, designed to save the mother’s life.

U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix concurred, issuing an order that prevented the law’s enforcement in cases where abortions were necessary to prevent “serious jeopardy” to the patient’s health or the risk of “serious impairment to bodily functions.”

However, a three-judge panel reversed this decision last month, asserting that there was no inherent conflict between Idaho’s abortion ban and the EMTALA, emphasizing that the EMTALA “does not set standards of care or specifically mandate that certain procedures, such as abortion, be offered.”

The panel also noted that any potential conflict had been resolved by subsequent actions in the state, including legislative and state Supreme Court clarifications of the law.

The three judges on last month’s panel were all appointed by former President Donald Trump, a Republican. The 9th Circuit currently comprises 28 active judges, with 15 appointed by Democratic presidents and 13 by Republicans.

However, the 11-judge panel set to reconsider the case will be randomly selected, adding an element of unpredictability to the proceedings.

Idaho’s Pro-Life Stance

NTD Photo
Idaho Gov. Brad Little gestures during a press conference at the Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, on Oct. 1, 2020. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP)

The 2020 Idaho ban in question was a “trigger” law that hinged on the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The law includes a very narrow exception, making it illegal except when an abortion is deemed necessary to prevent the mother’s death.

In January, the Idaho Supreme Court upheld the state’s near-total ban on abortion in response to a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood, pointing out that the procedure is not an inalienable right according to the state’s traditions.

In April, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, signed a bill making it a criminal offense for an adult to help a minor get an abortion without parental consent, even if the procedure to terminate the pregnancy is done out of state.

The new law, House Bill 242, came into effect in June, and formally established a new crime called “abortion trafficking.”

“With the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade last summer, the right and duty to establish legal policy on abortion was finally returned to our state democratic process,” Mr. Little wrote in a letter to Idaho lawmakers, declaring he had signed the legislation.

The bill states that it is not an “affirmative defense” to a prosecution under the new law for the accused to argue that the abortion was carried out in another state than Idaho, nor that the abortion pills were obtained from an out-of-state provider.

The law therefore makes it illegal for an adult to help a minor cross state lines to obtain an abortion without parental consent. Called “abortion trafficking,” such an offense is punishable by two to five years in prison.

Pro-life groups hailed the law, highlighting that abortion providers had been luring women across state lines for the procedures.

From The Epoch Times

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