US judge blocks part of restrictive Idaho abortion law

A US federal judge blocked part of a law banning most abortions in Idaho Wednesday, 24 August a victory for US President Joe Biden’s administration.

The state cannot prosecute doctors who perform abortions for the sake of the pregnant woman’s health, Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled. 

The temporary injunction will remain in effect until a court case challenging the abortion law can be decided, the judge ruled. 

Idaho, a rural and conservative state, was one of the first to pass a strict law prohibiting abortion in most cases after the US Supreme Court overturned the national right to the procedure in June. 

The rest of the bill, which remains highly restrictive, is set to go into effect Thursday. 

US Attorney General Merrick Garland had asked the court to block the whole bill, saying it violated federal law around medical emergencies because it did not provide an exception in cases of risk to the health of the pregnant patient, and authorized legal action against health care providers. 

Winmill said his decision is “not about the bygone constitutional right to an abortion.”

“This Court is not grappling with that larger, more profound question.

“Rather, the Court is called upon to address a far more modest issue—whether Idaho’s criminal abortion statute conflicts with a small but important corner of federal legislation. It does,” he wrote.

Despite its narrow focus, the ruling represents a win for the Biden administration. 

It “ensures that women in the State of Idaho can obtain the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law. This includes abortion when that is the necessary treatment,” Garland said in a statement Wednesday evening. 

Following the June Supreme Court decision,13 states have banned abortion using so-called “trigger laws,” and around half of all 50 states are expected to ban the procedure.

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