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Abortion set to become illegal in Idaho as state Supreme Court rejects calls to pause the bans

Idaho’s highest court denied Planned Parenthood’s request to stay the abortion bans from taking effect while the legal battles pan out after finding there is no right to an abortion under the state Constitution.

(CN) — On Aug. 25, less than two weeks away, nearly all abortions in Idaho will be outlawed after the state Supreme Court ruled late Friday evening they would not freeze the laws while courtroom battles over the bans continue.

In a 3-2 ruling, the court denied a request by a Planned Parenthood affiliate to stay the bans passed by the Idaho Legislature while they continue their legal fight. In their petition and arguments before the court, Planned Parenthood said they’ve shown enough likelihood of the irreparable harm that would behalf Idaho residents if the bans were allowed to take hold before their legality was decided.

But the state’s top court was not swayed, finding that in the new post-Roe landscape there is nothing in the Idaho Constitution that affirms a woman’s right to abortion.

“What Petitioners are asking this court to ultimately do is to declare a right to abortion under the Idaho Constitution when — on its face — there is none,” Justice Robin Brody wrote for the majority.

The court also found that Planned Parenthood, despite their allegations that the abortion bans run afoul of multiple civil liberties, have not shown they are likely to succeed on their merits of their case when the bans are fully reviewed later this year.

On top of allowing a near-total ban on abortions to take effect at the end of the month — with the only abortions allowed under the ban being in cases of rape, incest or to prevent the death of a pregnant woman — the court also lifted a stay issued in April that prevented a separate abortion ban from taking effect.

That ban allowed for some family members of a terminated pregnancy to take medical providers to court if they performed the abortion after six weeks, a deadline that has come under heavy fire given that many women don’t even know they are pregnant at that point. With the stay lifted, that ban is allowed to go into effect immediately.

Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s president, said Friday’s ruling resulted in key freedoms being blatantly stripped away from the Idahoans that need them, but remarked that the fight to restore abortion rights is not over.

“Tonight, the people of Idaho saw their bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom taken away,” Johnson said in a press release. “The court’s decision today is horrific and cruel. But this isn’t the end of the fight, and it isn’t our last day in court. No one should see their lives used as pawns by their elected officials or judicial system.”

In a dissenting opinion, two of Idaho’s Supreme Court justices said Friday’s decision is flawed because it focuses on what the Idaho Constitution does and does not allow for regarding abortion rights, a decision that the high court has not even made yet.

“The State and the Legislature’s only argument that irreparable harm will not result is that the Idaho Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion,” Justice John Stegner, joined by Justice Colleen Zahn, wrote in a dissent. “This argument fails because it is premised on a decision we have not yet made.”

With so many abortion bans up in the air, the Idaho Supreme Court set the stage for how they would be decided moving forward. The court rejected calls to send the dispute down to the lower courts, and consolidated all the different legal challenges into a single case.

The court also roped into the consolidation a third abortion ban that was not the subject of Friday’s ruling but is related enough to be settled with the other two. Under the third ban, abortions are banned following the detection of so-called “cardiac activity” or a “fetal heartbeat” — though experts have said that what’s being detected is closer to electrical activity than anything else.

With the cases consolidated and the bans gearing up to effectively outlaw nearly all abortions in the state, advocates looking to continue the fight will have to wait until Sept. 29 when oral arguments on the merits of the bans are set to begin.

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