Idaho Attorney General Prohibits Out-of-State Referrals for Abortion; Health Care Providers Sue

Affiliate: ACLU of Idaho
April 5, 2023 4:40 pm

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BOISE, ID — Today, a group of health care providers and advocates sued to stop Idaho Attorney General Labrador from applying a legal opinion in which he claims that health care providers cannot refer patients out of state for abortion care under Idaho law. Under the opinion, any assistance from a health care provider — including offering information about other states’ abortion providers and abortion funds — could be a violation of Idaho’s abortion ban, threatening health care licenses or even criminal prosecution. This interpretation goes far beyond Idaho’s law and is an extreme attempt to prevent health care providers from giving information to patients and to prevent Idahoans from accessing legal health care in another state.

In the lawsuit, Idaho physicians and Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Indiana, Kentucky (PPGNHAIK) assert that Attorney General Labrador’s interpretation of the law is a gross overreach into their medical practices. They argue the opinion prevents them from providing full information to their patients, violating the First Amendment. In addition, the logic of Attorney General Labrador’s opinion would mean that a health care provider who provides an abortion to an Idaho resident in another state violates Idaho’s abortion ban. The lawsuit asserts that such an interpretation of a state abortion ban is both unprecedented and unconstitutional.

Without court intervention, this opinion will cause grave harm to Idahoans and their families. Since the legal opinion was issued on March 27, providers in Idaho have been forced to withhold critical information from their patients who need abortion services about seeking care outside of the state. Many Idahoans seeking abortion will be forced to find an out-of-state provider without the assistance and insights provided by their chosen health care provider. Some will likely be forced to continue their pregnancy longer than they want, and even to give birth against their will. In a state where health care providers are fleeing for fear of criminalization and labor and delivery wards are closing, the results will almost certainly be deadly.

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“Attorney General Labrador is violating the boundaries of our constitution to further deny Idahoans the freedom to decide what is best for their own bodies and futures. If it was not already clear, it is now: opponents of reproductive freedom are not just coming for abortion, but for our very ability to exist. Everyone across the country should closely watch this attempt to control our lives and suppress the information medical professionals can share with their patients. We know from experience that once one politician attempts to push the limits of acceptability, others will soon follow. But make no mistake: Planned Parenthood and our partners will not back down. We are challenging this gross overreach, and we are ready for the fight ahead.”

Statement from Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky:

“This is a five-alarm fire. Banning abortion wasn’t enough for anti-abortion extremists in Idaho; they now want to ban where you go, what information you’re legally allowed to obtain, and even what health care providers can say. Attorney General Labrador’s opinion is an egregious extension of Idaho’s abortion ban. We won’t stand for it. Everyone across the country should be paying attention to this extreme attempt at government overreach to control our movements in and out of the state, control free speech, and access to information. This opinion should worry you even if you don’t live in Idaho.”

Statement from Leo Morales, executive director of ACLU of Idaho:

“Attorney General Labrador’s interpretation of current Idaho law to criminalize doctors for providing essential abortion medical care and information is yet another egregious attempt to weaponize health care for people in our state. It is unconstitutional, immoral, and blatant government interference in the patient-doctor relationship. We stand firmly in opposition to this radical interpretation of the law and are going to court to affirm the rights of Idahoans.”

Statement from Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:

“The opinion issued by Attorney General Labrador is blatantly unconstitutional and a dangerous threat to pregnant people in Idaho and the healthcare providers who they rely on. The opinion essentially puts a state-mandated muzzle on healthcare providers, stopping them from giving patients important and potentially life-saving information about where to get the medical care they need. This brazen attack on the reproductive freedom of Idahoans will not stand. We hope the court will recognize the clear constitutional violations of this action and immediately stop it from being enforced.”

This lawsuit, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Indiana, Kentucky v. Labrador, was filed by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU, the ACLU of Idaho, and the law firms Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Bartlett & French LLP, and Stris & Maher LLP on behalf of PPGNHAIK, Dr. Caitlin Gustafson, and Dr. Darin L. Weyhrich. The complaint and brief in support of their request for immediate relief are available to view. Attorneys also filed declarations from PPGNHAIK CEO Rebecca Gibron, Dr. Gustafson, and Dr. Weyhrich.


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