Fetal Pain Law: Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho Law Banning Abortions After 20 Weeks of Pregnancy
A federal judge has struck down Idaho’s law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on beliefs held by physicians and others that the fetus is able to feel pain at that point.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled late Wednesday in favor of Jennie Linn McCormack, who was 33 at the time she decided to challenge the state’s so-called fetal pain law and other abortion laws.
Idaho was one of seven states to adopt fetal pain laws in 2011, following in the footsteps of Nebraska’s approval of the law in 2010. But those laws are no longer the most restrictive. This week, lawmakers in Arkansas overrode a veto of a near-ban on the abortion procedure starting from the 12th week of pregnancy.
In his 42-page decision, Winmill sided with McCormack and her attorney, Richard Hearn, declaring Idaho’s fetal pain law places an undue burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion. The judge also took the Legislature - dominated by Republicans in both chambers - to task for the motives driving adoption of the law, finding that efforts to protect a fetus don’t outweigh a women’s right to choose.
The judge found “compelling evidence of the legislature’s `improper purpose’ in enacting it,” Winmill wrote. “The state may not rely on its interest in the potential life of the fetus to place a substantial obstacle to abortion before viability in women’s paths,” he said.
The ruling also finds unconstitutional at least two other Idaho laws dealing with abortion that Hearn and McCormack also challenged.