A Challenge to Idaho's New Abortion Laws

Jennie Linn McCormack will inevitably be described as an "unlikely abortion crusader," or some variation on that theme, because she is a poor mother of three and doesn't fit some media-constructed version of the Glamorous Big City Women's Activist, but that gets it precisely wrong. McCormack is the most likely of abortion advocates because she is a poor mother of three who lives in a small town in Idaho where she doesn't have access to a legal medical procedure.

Which is why she ordered RU486 over the internet to terminate a pregnancy, for which she was subsequently charged—both under a 1972 Idaho law making it a felony to end one's own pregnancy and under the 20-week "fetal pain" ban (patterned after the Nebraska law) that went into effect earlier this year.

The charges were later dismissed for lack of evidence, but now McCormack has filed suit, challenging the laws under which she was charged. (Rock the fuck on!)
The lawsuit is believed to be the first federal court case against any of several late-term abortion bans enacted in Idaho and four other states during the past year, based on controversial medical research suggesting a fetus feels pain starting at 20 weeks of development.

...The 1972 Idaho law discriminates against McCormack and other women of limited means in southeastern Idaho, which lacks any abortion providers, by forcing them to seek more costly surgical abortions far from home, the lawsuit says.

The newly enacted Idaho law banning late-term abortions was not yet in effect when McCormack terminated her own pregnancy using abortion pills she obtained from an online distributor at between 20 and 21 weeks of gestation on December 24, 2010, according to her lawyer, Richard Hearn.

But Hearn, also a physician, argues that both the 1972 law and the newly enacted Idaho statute pose other unconstitutional barriers to abortion. He cited, for example, the failure to exempt third-trimester pregnancies (25 weeks or more) in cases where a woman's health, not just her life, is at risk.

According to court documents, McCormack, a mother of three, learned she was pregnant in the fall of 2010 and ordered pills online she believed were prescribed by a distant healthcare provider to induce an abortion.

She hoped to avoid seeking a surgical abortion in Utah that she could ill afford on a monthly income of $200 to $250.

"I learned that medication for inducing abortions had been approved for use in the United States and could be purchased over the Internet," she wrote in a sworn statement.

...Hearn seeks to bar county prosecutors from charging other women with crimes under the state's abortion laws until their constitutionality is determined. A hearing on the request is set for September 8 in Boise.
I can only begin to imagine the blowback McCormack will get for filing this suit. I fervently hope that the message she is a hero to women fighting for their reproductive rights, and to their male allies, manages to penetrate the vitriol.

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