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Federal judge issues order blocking enforcement of Idaho abortion law

A judge in the US District Court for the District of Idaho [official website] issued a temporary order on Friday preventing the state of Idaho from enforcing a law that prohibits a woman from terminating her own pregnancy. Jennie Linn McCormack was charged [Reuters report] earlier this year under a 1972 Idaho state law that makes it a felony to end one's own pregnancy. McCormack had used a combination of FDA-approved abortion pills from an online source to terminate her pregnancy. After the case was dismissed for lack of evidence, McCormack filed suit in August seeking to prevent prosecution of other women under the law and challenging the state's newly-enacted "fetal pain" statute [JURIST reports]. McCormack claimed that both laws pose unconstitutional barriers to abortion. US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a temporary order [Reuters report] preventing the state from enforcing the 1972 law. However, Judge Winmill also found that McCormack lacked standing to seek an order blocking enforcement of the new "fetal pain" statute because she was no longer pregnant and could not show that she was harmed by the new law. McCormack's attorney stated that he would attempt to establish standing at a future hearing.

Idaho's "fetal pain" statute, 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. State legislatures across the country have been implementing measures to restrict abortions, and challenges to these laws are appearing in many states. In August, 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 in August, 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 in August, 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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