‘This court should preserve the status quo’: Idaho Supreme Court hears arguments on abortion laws

BOISE, ID. — The Idaho Supreme Court heard arguments from the lawyers of the state and Planned Parenthood this Wednesday morning. Planned Parenthood Great Northwest filed three lawsuits against Idaho’s abortion ban laws. Idaho justices hear arguments for two of them Wednesday morning.

Wednesday’s hearing was surrounded on if the cases should be consolidated if the laws should be put on hold until a decision is made, and if the cases should be passed down to district court.

Lawyers from the state and Planned Parenthood agree that the cases should be consolidated.

Planned Parenthood asks the court to put the laws on hold until a decision is made. The State asked that there not be a stay on the laws.

The lawsuits are related to Idaho’s trigger law and the heartbeat ban, which goes into effect later in August. The total ban goes into effect on August 25th and the heartbeat one goes into effect on August 19th.

Planned Parenthood argues that Idaho’s constitution protects the right to choose.

“This court should preserve the status quo that has [been] obtained in this state for 50 years, and ensure that Idaho women have access to safe comprehensive reproductive healthcare including safe access to abortion care,” the lawyer representing Planned Parenthood Alan Schoenfeld said.

Justice Moeller questioned the claims of Idaho’s Constitution protecting the right to choose. He said abortion had always been illegal up until Roe v. Wade.

“If there was a right to abortion in the Idaho constitution, has it always been there, or did it somehow arise as a result of the Roe decision?” Moeller said.

Schoenfeld said other states such as Kansas, Georgia, Alaska, Michigan have a similar history to Idaho and have found in their high courts’ abortion protections.

The court also questioned if it would make sense for them to hear from a medical expert because Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit includes medical citations.

“Doesn’t that suggest that we’re going to have to weigh and consider scientific evidence, and isn’t that evidence best reviewed by a trial court rather than an appellate court?” Justice Moeller said.

The state argued that the court needs to look at the framers of the constitution.

“There is no way that the drafters of the Idaho constitution were thinking that they were enshrining something as a fundamental right that was criminally prohibited at the time that they were drafting the document,” Deputy Attorney General Megan Larrando said.

Planned Parenthood’s lawyer argues Idaho’s abortion ban is also too vague. Schoenfeld says the law doesn’t allow clear guidance for doctors who provide abortion in life or death situations.

“Must a women’s death be certain, must it occur the next day or week?” he questioned. “Suppose a patient with pulmonary hypertension has a 30 to 50 percent risk of dying from ongoing pregnancy. Is that enough?”

The state refuted the claim saying doctors can exercise based on good faith when making a decision and it’s clear what is prohibited.

“Petitioners are alleging that the state has no dispute with some of their factual assertions about whether medical providers can understand these exactions is utterly inaccurate and utterly irrelevant,” Larrando said.

The court also questioned the state on potentially needing testimony from a medical provider. The state said that the court doesn’t need input from a medical provider that they’re facial challenges and should be decided on questions of law.

Justice Brody questioned the potential conflicts of each law, which go into effect just a few days apart.

“When the dust settles on August 25 and both of these laws go into effect. I don’t know exactly how to read that superseding language,” she said.

The state’s intervener, Monte Stewart said the legislature’s “paramount interest” is the termination of the stay of SB 1309. He says the stay is perpetuating the Roe V. Casey regime.

“Because of that stay pre-born children are being killed in Idaho contrary to dually enacted and holy valid statues,” he said.

The justices are in deliberations and there is no set date on when a decision will be made.

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