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Idaho woman challenges state anti-abortion laws

An Idaho woman has filed suit seeking to prevent prosecution of other women under the state's standing abortion [JURIST news archive] laws. Mother of three Jennie Linn McCormack was prosecuted earlier this year [Reuters report] under a 1972 state law that makes it a felony to end one's own pregnancy, and is now challenging both that law and Idaho's newly-enacted "fetal pain" anti-abortion statute [JURIST report]. The new law, passed in April, makes it a felony to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks based on controversial science indicating a fetus may feel pain after 20 weeks of development. McCormack discovered she was pregnant in the fall of last year and, using a combination of FDA-approved abortion pills obtained over the Internet in December, terminated her pregnancy at between 20 and 21 weeks of gestation. Because McCormack terminated her pregnancy before the new statute's passage she could not be prosecuted for its violation, and a judge dismissed for lack of evidence the charges brought under the 1972 law. McCormack is now leading a class-action lawsuit to challenge both laws based on the claim that they pose unconstitutional barriers to abortion. Specifically McCormack, who has a monthly income of less than $250, claims that the 1972 law discriminates against women of limited means by forcing them to obtain surgical procedures that are both costly and locally unavailable.

Since the November elections state legislatures across the country have been implementing measures to restrict abortions, and challenges to these laws are appearing in many states. On Tuesday a federal judge blocked several provisions of a new Texas abortion law [JURIST report] that places restrictions on the procedure and requires a doctor to show a sonogram to and play the sounds of the fetal heartbeat for a woman prior to performing an abortion. Earlier this month the Arizona Court of Appeals [official website] ended a two-year injunction [JURIST report] on portions of a law that restricted abortion practices, suggesting that the lower judge had applied "strict scrutiny" in error rather than an "undue burden" test. Also this month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law [JURIST report] that prohibits insurance companies from including coverage for abortion in their comprehensive plans.

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