Court Intervention Halts Effort to Dismiss Lawsuit Contesting Idaho Abortion Ban

An Idaho judge has denied the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit that argues Idaho’s abortion ban law is overly vague, leading women to be denied “necessary and potentially lifesaving obstetric care.”

“Idaho’s interlocking abortion bans hinder and delay necessary obstetric care and make it nearly impossible for medical professionals to continue providing obstetric care in the state,” reads the complaint, filed in September 2023. “Pervasive fear and uncertainty throughout the medical community regarding the scope of the exceptions to abortion bans have put patients’ lives and physicians’ liberty at grave risk.”

The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, argues that while abortions are technically permitted to “prevent a pregnant woman’s death,” this description is unclear, leaving physicians unsure of when they can intervene. 

Further, physicians who are found guilty of performing an abortion not covered under this exception face two to five years in prison, causing doctors to be hesitant to perform procedures that they believe are medically necessary out of fear of prosecution. 

“Facing the threats of losing their medical licenses, thousands of dollars in fines, and up to five years in prison, it is no wonder that doctors and hospitals in Idaho are turning patients away—even women in medical emergencies,” the complaint states. “Plaintiffs respectfully ask this Court for a declaratory judgment clarifying the scope of Idaho’s Medical Exceptions, and granting any and all declaratory or injunctive relief necessary to protect the health and lives of pregnant people in Idaho.”

However, last month, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office asked state Judge Jason Scott to dismiss the lawsuit in its entirety. Last week, Scott denied this request, allowing to suit to go forward. Scott did, however, dismiss two of the four claims against the state made in the complaint, including the claims that the law violates the Idaho Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and substantive due process provisions. Scott also dropped Idaho’s governor, attorney general, and the Board of Medicine as defendants in the case.

Despite having some claims dismissed, supporters of the lawsuit expressed optimism that the suit has been allowed to go forward.

“We’re grateful the court saw through the State’s callous attempt to ignore the pain and suffering their laws are causing Idahoans. Now the State of Idaho will be forced to answer to these women in a court of law,” said Gail Deady, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a Friday press release. “In every state where abortion is banned, pregnant people are suffering.”