U.S. court says woman can't be charged for inducing abortion

Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:52pm EDT

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(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.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Comments (3)
GoldNugget wrote:
We live in scary times. Anti-choice regulations make it nearly impossible for women to exercise their legal right to abortion in large areas of this country.

The problem is not this woman. It is not the legal medication she administered to herself. The problem is that the religious proclivities of a minority can force these types of desperate decisions on millions of American women, and worse, put her at risk of prosecution!

Keep your religion out of my bedroom and doctors office. This is a safe and legal procedure. Its simple: If you oppose abortion, don’t have one.

Sep 11, 2012 5:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
gregbrew56 wrote:
…and remember: it’s possible to be anti-abortion, but pro-choice. As a male, it’s none of my damn business.

Sep 11, 2012 7:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
hobomidget wrote:
I am glad these encroachments on the lives of simple civilians are being struck down. These are the issues we think about when we talk about small government, not less taxes on the rich.

This is a good day for Freedom and the American way. Thank you for standing up for your rights!

Sep 12, 2012 3:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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