Federal Judge Blocks Idaho Prosecution of Out-of-State Abortion Referrals

August 1, 2023

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the District of Idaho on Monday temporarily blocked the state from prosecuting doctors who refer patients out of state for abortions.

In issuing his injunction Winmill, a Clinton appointee, agreed with a challenge brought by Planned Parenthood and others that Republican Attorney General Raul Labrador’s interpretation of the state’s criminal abortion law was “chilling” to providers’ First Amendment rights to free speech.

In March 2022—months before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and the 50-year Constitutional right to abortion in June of that year—the Idaho state legislature passed a bill making it the second state in the U.S. after Texas to ban abortion at six weeks of pregnancy.

Idaho’s abortion ban calls for revoking the license of any professional healthcare provider who assists in performing an abortion. 

Winmill found that Labrador’s interpretation of “assist” to include out-of-state referrals as going too far. The judge enjoined the attorney general from prosecuting any such cases until the underlying legal challenge to the abortion law is settled in court.

“The Court finds that the Medical Providers have established that there is a genuine threat of prosecution. This threat has resulted in the chilling of the Medical Providers’ speech—a well-established concrete injury,” Winmill wrote.

The Idaho judge’s ruling comes the same day healthcare providers and an abortion rights group filed suit against the state of Alabama to block its authorties from criminally prosecuting anyone who helps others travel out of state to get abortions.

In May, Winmill denied Labrador’s request to reconsider an order barring Idaho from prosecuting emergency room physicians for providing abortion care to stabilize a patient.

PHOTO: U.S. District Court of Idaho in Boise  

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