Idaho woman charged with illegal abortion challenges laws

Aug 31, 2011

An Idaho woman who was prosecuted on felony charges for ending a pregnancy is now challenging state anti-abortion laws in federal court. It's the first constitutional challenge to a so-called "fetal pain" law that several states passed recently.

Police in Pocatello, Idaho, said Jennie McCormack ordered medication online to terminate her pregnancy at around 20 weeks. Under a 1972 state law, however, it's illegal to have an abortion unless it's performed by a doctor.

McCormack is now filing a lawsuit against that 40-year-old law.

Her attorney Rick Hearn says, "The reason it has stayed there on our books so long is prosecutors in Idaho, maybe wisely, have not prosecuted any women that I'm aware of under that law for having an abortion, but unfortunately for Ms. McCormack, they did attempt to prosecute her."

A judge later dismissed felony charges against her for lack of evidence.

McCormack's lawsuit also challenges a new state ban on abortions after 20 weeks. Lawmakers in Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama recently passed versions of the law. It's based on the claim that 20 weeks is when a fetus starts to feel pain.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there is no legitimate scientific information that supports that. The organization also says medications that induce abortions are not supposed to be used after nine weeks.

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