Thursday, March 7, 2013

Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho Abortion Statute, Rules It Punishes Women

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Jennie Linn McCormack sits with her attorney, Richard Hearn.
  • Los Angeles Times
  • Jennie Linn McCormack of Pocatello sits with her attorney, Richard Hearn.

An Idaho woman won a major court battle Wednesday, when a federal judge struck down a law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The Idaho law has been based on beliefs by some that the fetus was able to begin feeling pain at the 20-week stage.

The case involves Jennie Linn McCormack, a single mother of three, who learned that she was pregnant in 2010. The father was out of the picture and McCormack was living a meager existence, primarily depending on child support checks. She purchased RU-486 off the Internet. RU-486 is medically recommended only with the first nine weeks of pregnancy. But McCormack said it was possible that the fetus was further along—possibly as many as 20 weeks.

Police discovered the aborted fetus on the woman's back porch. She had told police that she didn't know what else to do with it. Her medical history and personal relationships surfaced in her preliminary court hearing.

McCormack's attorney, Richard Hearn, is also a doctor and he joined her case as another plaintiff, arguing that he wants to provide abortion services in the future and that Idaho law bars him from performing the procedure.

McCormack told the Los Angeles Times that the case had turned her into a pariah in Pocatello. She had to quit her job at a dry cleaner's after too many clients said they didn't want her handling their clothes.

"My neighbors gave me nasty looks when I'd go out in public. They'd get all whispery: 'That's her,'" McCormack told the Times. "My kids, they have friends that say stuff to them, and my older two, I feel that they're a little bit ashamed. And that's hard."

But on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled in favor of McCormack, finding "compelling evidence of the [Idaho] Legislature's improper purpose in enacting" the 20-week ban.

"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," wrote Winmill. "Historically, abortion statutes sought to protect pregnant females from third parties providing dangerous abortions. As a result, most states' abortion laws traditionally criminalized the behavior of third parties to protect the health of pregnant women—they did not punish women for obtaining an abortion. By punishing women, Idaho's abortion statute is therefore unusual."

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