|“This letter was meant to be private and was not issued as formal guidance, but the anti-abortion group Stanton International obtained the letter and posted it on its website,” notes The Hill. “The attorney general later withdrew the opinion and said his letter was ‘mischaracterized as law enforcement guidance.'”
Still, Idaho physicians worried that Labrador’s private interpretation of the law might still have some weight. Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest and two doctors—Caitlin Gustafson and Darin L. Weyhrich—filed a lawsuit, arguing that Labrador’s interpretation violated the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment.
Winmill agreed that criminalizing out-of-state referrals would violate the First Amendment. Doctors and clinics would “be forced to choose between facing criminal penalties themselves and offering referrals and information about legal out-of-state medicinal services to their patients,” he wrote. “Simply put, their speech will be chilled.”
Winmill’s ruling, issued Monday, blocks Labrador’s interpretation from being enforced. That means Idaho doctors cannot—at least for now—be prosecuted for helping patients obtain out-of-state abortions.
But Idaho’s abortion ban—passed in 2020 and triggered into effect by the overturning of Roe v. Wade last summer—is still one of the strictest in the nation. It makes it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion at any point in pregnancy except in cases where a mother’s life is threatened or in cases of rape or incest that have been reported to law enforcement.
“Rather than offering a narrow list of exceptions, as other anti-abortion laws do, Idaho’s law simply provides an affirmative legal defense for doctors arrested and charged with performing abortions,” as Reason‘s Emma Camp has noted: