Last Thursday, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that a “fundamental right to abortion” does not exist within the text of the state’s constitution. Idaho effectively upheld its statewide ban on abortion.
Idaho had enacted trigger laws defending the unborn in 2021 and 2022. The laws contain abortion bans that were set to take effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. Planned Parenthood sued on the basis of a claim that those laws were a violation of Idaho’s Constitution. The anti-life giant claimed that Article I, Section I of the state’s constitution includes an implicit right to abortion. Idaho’s Supreme Court ruled against the lawsuit in a 3-2 decision.
In her majority opinion, Justice Robyn Brody first explained that the Idaho Constitution must be interpreted “based on the plain and ordinary meaning of its text, as intended by those who framed and adopted the provision at issue.”
Arguing that the fundamental rights defended in the Idaho constitution’s inalienable rights clause are those that existed “when the people ratified that provision,” Brody warned that interpreting the text otherwise could result in ideologically-minded use of the state’s laws.
In light of this instruction, Brody explained, the only fundamental rights implicit in the inalienable rights clause are those that “existed in 1889 when the people ratified that provision.” This helps “avoid subjective injections of what we think ‘fair,’ ‘just,’ or ‘good policy’ to reach a desired outcome.”
The Idaho Supreme Court’s ruling is especially significant, as several states have been waging legal battles over the legitimacy of abortion since the publication of the Dobbs decision last summer.