A federal appeals court on Friday struck down Idaho’s ban against abortions after 20 or more weeks of pregnancy, ruling the law unconstitutional.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Idaho law violated Supreme Court precedent by prohibiting abortions before a fetus is considered viable, typically around 24 weeks. The court also found it unconstitutional for the state to require that all women seeking abortions during their second-trimester do so in a hospital, saying it “places an undue burden on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.”
The challenger in the suit, Jennie McCormack, was originally arrested in 2011 and faced criminal charges after she induced an abortion by taking the pill RU-486 – medication not authorized by the state. Those charges were dismissed later that year, and McCormack followed up by filing a class action federal lawsuit against Idaho, challenging abortion provisions in the state’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Dr. Richard Hearn signed on to the suit on the behalf of himself and his patients.
Friday’s decision – brought by a three-judge panel made up of two Democratic-appointees and one Republican-appointee – found that the higher court had already determined that women have the right to “choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State.” Idaho’s law, the court said, was “unconstitutional because it categorically bans some abortions before viability.”
The U.S. has seen a wave of efforts to place 20-week abortion bans on the books. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 10 states have had similar requirements made into law, its supporters arguing that the fetus can feel pain at that point in gestation.
A 20-week ban on abortions passed through the Republican-led House. Supporters say they plan to take the legislation up in the Senate.