Judge blocks part of Idaho’s abortion law from taking effect


HR King
May 29, 2001
The Biden administration on Wednesday scored its first legal victory since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, convincing a judge to block the portion of an Idaho law that criminalizes performing an abortion on a woman to protect her health.

The law, which was set to take effect on Thursday, bans abortions except in cases involving rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger — and does not contain an exception for when a pregnant person’s health is at risk. It would allow authorities to arrest a health-care professional involved in performing an abortion, putting the onus on that person to prove in court that the abortion met the criteria for one of the exceptions.

In a ruling late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said the statute violates a federal act that requires hospitals participating in the federally funded Medicare program to provide medical care when a person’s life or health is at stake. The “trigger” law was written by Idaho state lawmakers long before the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June, with the expectation that it would automatically go into effect soon after the court made that landmark ruling.
1 in 3 American women have already lost abortion access. More restrictive laws are coming.
Idaho can still have a strict abortion law in place. But in issuing a preliminary injunction, Winmill ruled that a doctor cannot be punished if he or she performs an abortion to protect the health of a pregnant patient.


“It’s not about the bygone constitutional right to an abortion,” the judge’s ruling states. “This Court is not grappling with that larger, more profound question. Rather, the Court is called upon to address a far more modest issue — whether Idaho’s criminal abortion statute conflicts with a small but important corner of federal legislation. It does.”
A spokesperson for Idaho’s attorney general did not immediately return a request for comment.
The ruling sets up a potential clash in the federal court system, with a Texas court ruling Tuesday that the federal statute in question does not require states to allow abortions in instances when it could protect a pregnant patient’s health. With many states passing increasingly stringent abortion bans, legal experts expect the litigation over the health-exception issue to continue, potentially reaching the Supreme Court.

Still, the crux of Idaho’s abortion law will remain intact, with the state continuing to ban abortion in most circumstances. The narrow scope of the decision underscores just how few legal tools the Biden administration has to significantly shape abortion rights in the country since Roe was struck down, upending the right to terminate a pregnancy that had been enshrined in federal law for nearly 50 years.

Last edited: