Idaho Woman Wins Court Order Against Self-Induced Abortion Law
September 26, 2011 — U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill on Friday ruled in favor of an Idaho woman who was charged with violating a decades-old state law prohibiting self-induced abortion after she terminated her own pregnancy using pills purchased over the Internet, Reuters reports. However, the judge rejected the woman's separate bid for a temporary injunction against a new state law banning abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, ruling that she lacked the legal standing to challenge the law. The law is based on supporters' claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks (Zuckerman, Reuters, 9/23).
According to the lawsuit, Jennie Linn McCormack argued that a 1972 state law discriminates against low-income women in southeastern Idaho, an area with no abortion providers, by making it a felony to end their pregnancies themselves. She also contended that a recently enacted state law banning abortion after 20 weeks unless the woman's life is in danger -- which was not in effect when McCormack terminated her pregnancy -- poses unconstitutional barriers to abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/6).
Winmill granted McCormack a temporary court order barring enforcement of the 1972 statute. He ruled that she is likely to succeed on the merits of her claim that the law poses an unconstitutional barrier to seeking abortion services. The lawsuit stems from a criminal charge -- later dismissed for lack of evidence -- against McCormack, who ended her pregnancy when she allegedly was between 20 and 21 weeks pregnant on Dec. 24, 2010.
Winmill said McCormack's request for a temporary injunction against the 20-week abortion ban was denied because she was unable to prove imminent harm from the law, as she was no longer pregnant when it took effect. However, McCormack does have legal standing to seek a court order against enforcement of the 1972 law because the criminal case could be refiled against her, Winmill said.
Richard Hearn, McCormack's lawyer, said he would push to establish her standing on the new law at a future hearing (Reuters, 9/23).