Planned Parenthood sues in Idaho Supreme Court to stop trigger law that bans abortion

Sarah A. Miller/
·3 min read

A Planned Parenthood affiliate on Monday filed a lawsuit in the Idaho Supreme Court seeking to stop the state’s trigger law that would effectively ban abortion in the state after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The lawsuit follows a U.S. Supreme Court judgment last week that struck down Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision that provided the right to an abortion nationwide. Idaho’s trigger law — which is expected to take effect in late August — outlaws abortion statewide except in instances when the pregnancy puts the woman’s life at risk. An abortion can also be sought if the pregnancy was a result of incest or rape, as long as it was reported to the police.

The lawsuit attempts to block that trigger law, passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature. It’s scheduled to take effect 30 days after the decision overturning Roe v. Wade is officially on the books.

“Even though we knew this day was coming, it doesn’t change how devastating Friday’s ruling was for our providers, patients, and their loved ones,” Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, said in a news release. “In a single moment, Idahoans’ right to control their own bodies, lives, and personal medical decisions was taken away, but we will not stand for it. We will never back down. We will never stop fighting.”

Lawyers from the law firms WilmerHale and Bartlett French filed the petition on behalf of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky and Idaho provider Caitlin Gustafson, who practices family medicine with obstetrics in McCall.

Gustafson also provides procedural abortions at Planned Parenthood’s Meridian location once a month, according to the lawsuit, as well as medication abortion care.

“Dr. Gustafson is threatened with criminal penalties and professional consequences under the total abortion ban, as are other medical professionals who provide abortions in Idaho,” according to the suit.

“It is abhorrent that we have now entered an era where the delivery of safe essential health care will be criminalized,” Gustafson said in a release. “Physicians take an oath to provide the care patients need to keep them safe, so we cannot stand by while the government intrudes on this deeply personal and complex medical decision.”

Idaho Supreme Court spokesperson Nate Poppino told the Idaho Statesman that the court had received the filing.

Another abortion law in Idaho would allow family members of the fetus to sue abortion providers. That law was temporarily put on hold by the Idaho Supreme Court after Planned Parenthood sued to stop it.

Planned Parenthood says abortion ban violates Idaho law

The lawsuit alleges that the abortion ban violates state law in “at least three separate ways,” including Idahoans’ right to privacy when it comes to making intimate family decisions.

It also claims that the law violates Idaho’s Human Rights Act and that the ban is “unconstitutionally vague.”

Under the Idaho Human Rights Act, people cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sex. Because the abortion ban would force women to “endure the burdens and risks of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting based on outdated stereotypes about their societal role,” it discriminates and is unconstitutional, according to the suit.

The lawsuit also points out that the ban places “a host of burdens on women, with no equivalent burdens on men.”

“Rather than banning all abortion, the State could have, for instance, increased access to contraception or healthcare and strengthened social assistance programs, which would have better protected children and pregnant people without infringing on citizens’ fundamental rights,” the lawsuit states.

Finally, the lawsuit asserts that the ban is “unconstitutionally vague” because it does not give any explanation of the term “clinically diagnosable pregnancy” — as there are numerous standards medical professionals use to determine a pregnancy. The law also does not outline sufficient guidelines for physicians to determine whether an abortion can be performed, according to the suit.

“Physicians facing the complexities of actually assessing a patient’s health performing abortion procedures will be unable to reliably ensure that their conduct is legal,” the lawsuit alleges.