Abortion rights activists from UltraViolet organize a light brigade outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 30, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that determined a person’s constitutional right to seek an abortion, a move that will make abortion illegal in nearly all cases in 13 states, including Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.
The decision follows a report in early May in Politico signaling the court was poised to reverse the ruling through a leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito. In addition to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court also overturned Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 case about restrictions placed on abortion access.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the justices in the majority wrote.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissent in the case.
“With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” it began.
Idaho governor: We must now come together to support pregnant women and teens
Idaho passed its trigger law in 2020, and it will take effect in 30 days, making abortion a felony. The law only makes exceptions for rape, incest and to save the pregnant person’s life. A rape or incest victim would have to provide a copy of a police report to the physician who would perform the procedure, a process which can sometimes take weeks.
In a statement, Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he joined many in Idaho and across the country in welcoming the court’s long-awaited decision that he said upholds state sovereignty and protects lives.
“This is now clear — the ‘right’ to an abortion was a judicial creation. Abortion is not a right expressed in the U.S. Constitution, and abortion will be entrusted to the states and their people to regulate,” Little wrote. “However, we fully acknowledge this monumental moment in our country’s history means we must confront what now will be growing needs for women and families in the months and years ahead. We absolutely must come together like never before to support women and teens facing unexpected or unwanted pregnancies. Families, churches, charities, and local and state government must stand ready to lift them up and help them and their families with access to adoption services, health care, financial and food assistance, counseling and treatment and family planning. We are being called to support women and our fellow community members in extraordinary new ways, and I’m confident Idahoans are ready to meet this responsibility with love and compassion.”
The Idaho Democratic Party released a statement saying Idahoans can no longer rely on the courts to protect their rights, and that Idaho Democrats will continue to fight for reproductive rights.
“Today’s decision will have especially dangerous consequences for the women and girls living in states like Idaho,” said state Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, in a statement released by the Idaho Democratic Party. “The only thing standing between them and forced pregnancy and birth — even in the case of rape and (incest) — was the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade. Now that’s gone.”
In a tweet, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said she is infuriated and intensely worried.
“The decision to terminate a pregnancy is deeply personal and private. This decision by the Supreme Court will have devastating consequences on the health, privacy and economic independence of women throughout our community, state and nation,” McLean said.
In an emailed statement, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said the court wrongly determined a woman’s right to an abortion in 1973, and today’s decision is a step to “right that wrong.”
“The court’s decision recognizes that states have an interest in protecting life at all stages of development by giving Americans the power to decide this matter at the state level through their elected representatives,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, tweeted a statement saying, “My strong commitment to supporting measures that protect the rights of the unborn remains unchanged. I believe abortion is wrong and should be limited to cases where the mother’s life is in imminent danger. The court’s decision upholds states’ ability to protect the right to life.”
In an emailed statement, Planned Parenthood said the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision will fall largely on people who already face the greatest barriers to health care, including Black, Latino and Indigenous communities, people with low incomes, gay and transgender people and people who live in rural areas.
“Make no mistake — this decision goes beyond abortion. This is about who has power over you, who has the authority to make decisions for you, and who can control your future,” said Jennifer M. Allen, Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates CEO. “This is a dark day for our country, but our fight is far from over. The people of Idaho should know that Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates will always fight for you, and we will not back down. Generations before us have fought tirelessly to gain and protect our rights. Now it’s our turn to pick up the mantle.”
What will happen with the state abortion law currently before the Idaho Supreme Court?
After the draft opinion was published, leaders of Planned Parenthood in Oregon said their clinics are prepared for an influx of patients from Idaho. The organization, which is closing its clinic in Boise, is also opening a clinic in Ontario, which is about an hour away from Boise. That decision was announced shortly after Idaho passed a bill effectively banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
That bill, Senate Bill 1309, passed the Idaho Legislature in March, and Little signed it into law. Modeled after a similar law in Texas, the bill allows civil lawsuits to be filed against medical professionals who perform abortions after cardiac activity is detected. Little wrote in a letter accompanying his signature on the bill that he was concerned by the lawsuit mechanism, particularly since it seemed to provide monetary incentive to perpetrators of sexual assault crimes. The law awards no less than $20,000 to the mother, father, grandparents, siblings, aunt or uncle of the fetus or embryo, in a successful lawsuit.
The Idaho Supreme Court paused implementation of the law after Planned Parenthood challenged its constitutionality. The court scheduled a date of Aug. 3 to hear oral arguments in the case.
Blaine Conzatti, director of the Idaho Family Policy Center, helped push Senate Bill 1309 through the Legislature and said the ruling makes him more confident in its legal footing moving forward. He’s also confident that if Idaho’s trigger law is challenged in court, it will survive.
“We’re overjoyed that the (U.S.) Supreme Court has corrected decades of injustice in how our legal system treats pre-born babies,” Conzatti told the Capital Sun on Friday. “We are going to use every legal avenue we can to ensure that in the state of Idaho’s pre-born babies have the same constitutional protections as every other person. … The work is not yet done.”
Lisa Humes-Schulz, vice president of policy and regulatory affairs for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said in an email that the organization won’t drop the lawsuit even with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling because the challenge is built on a right to privacy as outlined in Idaho’s Constitution, not Roe v. Wade.
“We will continue to do everything we can to ensure Idahoans can access the care they need through the challenge to (Senate Bill) 1309,” Humes-Schulz said. “We are looking forward to our day in court in August.”
Planned Parenthood representative: We’ll provide abortions in Idaho as long as legally possible
Planned Parenthood Greater Northwest spokesperson Katie Rodihan said the organization plans to provide abortion care for as long as legally possible in Idaho with Roe v. Wade overturned, which will be 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
In the meantime, Planned Parenthood clinics in Meridian and Twin Falls have increased the number of available appointments and are trying to find ways to fit patients in the schedule wherever possible.
Compared to the months of April, May and June of 2021, Rodihan said the clinics in Idaho have experienced a 40% increase in demand for abortion services. Appointments can generally be scheduled within a week of a call to the clinics.
“I think it’s people who are trying to get in and get care as quickly as they possibly can,” Rodihan said. “Some folks may otherwise take time to make their decision, but now they know there’s not going to be flexibility in the future.”
The clinics have not seen a significant increase in demand for contraception, including long-term contraceptives such as intrauterine devices — better known as IUDs — but Rodihan said they are recommending individuals stock up on emergency contraception, such as Plan B, which is available at Planned Parenthood clinics. Plan B has a shelf life of up to four years.
However, emergency contraception pills decrease in effectiveness for women who are over a certain weight, Rodihan said. In those scenarios, an IUD or birth control pills would be recommended.
Planned Parenthood recently closed its Boise clinic to consolidate resources in anticipation of the ruling to allow cost savings for telemedicine and other services, according to Rodihan.
“We’re going to need to increase things like telemedicine and also invest in our patient navigators so that we can both create more room for out-of-state patients in our protective states like Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, and also help patients in restricted states find their way to care,” Rodihan said.
That doesn’t mean the clinic in Boise will be closed permanently, she added. And another clinic in Ontario, Oregon, is scheduled to open in the coming months.
For the clinics in Idaho, the ruling won’t change the other 90% of care that Planned Parenthood provides to patients, Rodihan said, including pregnancy and STD testing, routine health care for women and men and hormone therapy.
“We’re fully committed to having a continued presence in Idaho,” she said.
Idaho Capital Sun editor-in-chief Christina Lords contributed to this story.
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