Appeals Court Says Women Can’t be Prosecuted for Medical Abortion

A panel of judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit appeals court ruled yesterday that a woman cannot be prosecuted under an Idaho state law for taking medication to induce an abortion.

In September 2011, Jennie Linn McCormack used medication she had purchased from the internet to abort her own pregnancy. In doing so, she allegedly violated a state law requiring that all abortions be performed in a hospital or medical center and that banned the use of medication to induce an abortion. Originally the case was dismissed because the court believed there was no way to enforce the law. McCormack then appealed the decision to challenge the law itself.

The court determined [PDF] that the law is unconstitutional because it places the burden of the law on a woman seeking an abortion, not on the physician. Judge Harry Pregerson stated in his opinion “There can be no doubt 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.”

The law can still be enforced, however, despite the ruling. Until the law is struck down, women can legally be prosecuted, however this case sets precedent for dismissal.

Media Resources: Huffington Post 9/11/12; U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 9/11/12

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