Court strikes down Idaho’s 20-week abortion ban

Good news out of Idaho:

Idaho has become the first state to have its so-called fetal pain law banning abortions after 20 weeks struck down by the federal courts.

The decision from U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill was handed down Wednesday as part of a ruling that also overturns other abortion restrictions in Idaho.

The ruling is binding only in Idaho but could have a persuasive effect in lawsuits challenging similar bans in other states — such as Arizona, where a suit is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case was brought by Jennie Linn McCormack, an Idaho mother who was arrested and charged with a felony for getting an abortion. Her story is heartbreaking and infuriating: Unable to afford the procedure at a clinic, McCormack ended her pregnancy using abortion pills she bought online. Soon she found herself charged under a state law that makes self-inducing an abortion a crime, and was ostracized by her community. In addition to the 20-week ban, the judge also struck down the self-abortion statutes, noting that the purpose of requiring abortions to be performed by a doctor is to protect women, not punish them for exercising their rights.

Similar 20-week bans have passed in 10 states total now–and lawsuits challenging them have been filed in Arizona and Georgia, as well. The anti-choice strategy with such laws has been to ignore the fact that they’re unconstitutional and cross their fingers that the courts eventually agree. Let’s hope this ruling will help drive home the point that when the Supreme Court repeatedly decided that the government cannot prohibit abortion before viability–whether at 20 or 12 or six weeks–they actually, ya know, meant it.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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