By Dan Levine
Sept 11 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday blocked
the prosecution of an Idaho woman who aborted her pregnancy by
taking pills instead of traveling to a clinic or hospital as
required by state law.
Jennie Linn McCormack, an unmarried mother of three, was
charged by Bannock County prosecutors last year after she
ingested medication to induce an abortion. The drugs were
approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and
prescribed over the Internet, according to the opinion from the
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Idaho requires that abortions be performed during the first
trimester in a hospital, doctor's office or clinic. No licensed
healthcare providers offered the procedure near where McCormack
lived in southeastern Idaho, the opinion said.
The criminal case against McCormack was dismissed, and she
filed a lawsuit claiming Idaho's abortion law is
unconstitutional. An Idaho federal judge issued an injunction
saying the law can't be enforced.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the 9th Circuit largely agreed.
Criminal abortion statutes traditionally apply to individuals
such as doctors, who perform unhealthy abortions that threaten
women's safety, the unanimous three-judge panel said.
Those laws shouldn't apply to pregnant women themselves,
according to the opinion.
"There can be no doubt," the court said, "that requiring
women to explore the intricacies of state abortion statutes to
ensure that they and their provider act within the Idaho
abortion statute framework, results in an 'undue burden' on a
woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus."
At this point in the litigation, however, the injunction
should only apply to McCormack, and not women generally, the
court said. McCormack may ultimately get a judgment that strikes
down the law entirely, the 9th Circuit said.
Bannock County prosecutors and McCormack's attorney could
not immediately be reached for comment.
The case in the 9th Circuit is Jennie Linn McCormack vs.
Mark Hiedeman, 11-36010.
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