ACLU and Planned Parenthood Knock Down Idaho Law

October 15, 1999 12:00 am

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Friday, October 15, 1999

BOISE, ID — In a ruling that ensures women’s access to safe abortions in Idaho, a federal judge this week declared the state’s “Partial Birth” anti-abortion law unconstitutional.

The challenge to the 1998 statute was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Idaho, Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of its Idaho chapter, and two doctors who provide abortions.

“This law was so broad and vague that it banned virtually all abortion procedures,” said Mary Kelly McColl of Planned Parenthood. “Instead of spending valuable time and taxpayers’ money on this divisive issue, legislators should be discussing ways to expand family planning that would prevent the need for abortion in the first place.”

The groups challenged the law on the grounds that it would prohibit the safest and most common methods of abortion used throughout a woman’s pregnancy. The law also lacked a constitutionally required exception to allow the banned procedure when a woman’s health is endangered.

Jack Van Valkenburgh, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho, said that he had expected the court to strike down the law.

“The end was predictable,” he said. “The legal challenge of this abortion ban has cost taxpayers more than $20,000, and that doesn’t even include the state and county’s time and costs incurred in addressing the challenge.”

Indeed, in a news interview today with the Idaho Statesman, Deputy Attorney General David High said the ruling by Federal District Judge B. Lynn Winmill would not be appealed. “The decisions around the country indicate this is the way the courts are viewing this,” he said. “We’re not going to waste taxpayers’ money on it.”

In March 1998, Judge Winmill granted a temporary restraining order preventing the ban from being enforced until a federal appeals court issued its ruling in an Arizona case where a lower court had declared a similar law unconstitutional. The appeal of that case was dismissed in February 1999, leaving the Arizona decision intact.

Following that dismissal, Attorney General Alan Lance and Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower, the co-defendants in the case, said that they would not oppose the ACLU’s request that Judge Winmill declare Idaho’s abortion ban unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs in the case were also represented by cooperating counsel from the law firms Holland & Hart and Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.

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