Idaho "Fetal Pain" Bill Struck Down By Federal Court
On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that an Idaho law banning abortion after 20 weeks is unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy before viability.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote in his opinion, "the Idaho Legislature's enactment of the [fetal pain law] in light of this opinion is compelling evidence of the legislature's 'improper purpose' in enacting it." He also wrote, "the state's clear disregard of this controlling Supreme Court precedent and its apparent determination to define viability in a manner specifically and repeatedly condemned by the Supreme Court evinces an intent to place an insurmountable obstacle in the path of women seeking non-therapeutic abortions of a nonviable fetus at and after 20 weeks' gestation."
In delivering his decision the judge said, "the purpose of the [law's] categorical ban is to protect the fetus - not the mother. In essence, [the law] embodies a legislative judgment equating viability with 20 weeks' gestational age, which the Supreme Court expressly forbids."
The ban, based on the notion that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation, was only one part of the anti-abortion law that was overturned. Judge Winmill also struck down two additional provisions. One required that an abortion be performed by a physician in a staffed clinic, which all but eliminated access to medical abortions, and the other required any second trimester abortion to be performed in a hospital and could have potentially criminalized a woman seeking a second trimester abortion.
In his decision, Judge Winmill wrote "Historically, abortion statutes sought to protect pregnant females from third parties providing dangerous abortions. As a result, most states' abortion laws traditionally criminalized the behavior of third parties to protect the health of pregnant women - they did not punish women for obtaining an abortion. By punishing women, Idaho's abortion statute is therefore unusual."
Judge Winmill's decision marks the first time a fetal pain bill has been overturned in federal court.
Media Resources: Politico 3/8/2013; LA Times 3/7/2013; Associated Press 3/6/2013
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .