Lawsuit over abortion reporting rules dismissed

Posted at 4:49 AM, May 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-10 06:49:55-04

BOISE, Idaho — A federal lawsuit over abortion reporting requirements has been dismissed after lawmakers tweaked the law to remove some unconstitutionally vague language.

U.S. District Judge David Nye granted the dismissal this week after the Idaho Attorney General's office and attorneys for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands asked to have the case closed.

"The lawsuit was successful in that it obviously spurred the Legislature on to modify the statute," said Deborah Ferguson, one of the attorneys representing Planned Parenthood in the case. Idaho Attorney Lawrence Wasden declined to comment, his spokesman Scott Graf said Thursday.

The abortion reporting rules enacted by the Idaho Legislature in 2018 required doctors, hospitals and clinics to report to the state if a woman who previously had an abortion experienced any medical conditions on a long list of things that lawmakers deemed to be "abortion complications." The reports had to be made if the medical conditions could be directly or indirectly related to the abortion, sometimes even if they occurred years later.

The list included things like infection, blood clots and hemorrhaging, as well as things like depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. The "complications" were to be reported to the state Department of Health and Welfare, and the data was intended to be compiled into an annual report made available to the public.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands filed the federal lawsuit later that year, contending that the new reporting rules were unconstitutionally vague and included medical conditions that had no connection to an abortion. For instance, Planned Parenthood said, no scientific link has been found between abortion and a subsequent development of breast cancer, but if a woman developed breast cancer even years after having an abortion it would be listed as a "complication" under the new law.

A short time later Nye said that Planned Parenthood appeared likely to win the lawsuit, but he declined to put the new law on hold while the case moved forward.

When the 2019 legislative session started, lawmakers repealed the previous law and passed a new version with tweaks to remove the vague language. The new version clarified that the medical issues were reportable if the medical practitioner believed they were an abnormal event caused by the abortion itself, rather than simply an "indirect result" of an abortion.

Because of the changes, lawyers on both sides agreed to dismiss the case.