Last winter a woman named Jennie discovered she was pregnant. She already had 3 children ranging in ages from 2-17 and no means to support a 4th child. In Idaho only a licensed Idaho physician can perform abortions, so the options are already limited. The woman lives in southeast Idaho where there are no licensed abortion providers. This meant she would have had to go out of state to procure an abortion; something she could not afford to do on an income between $200 and $250 a month, so her and her sister took matters into their own hands. They found a website online that sold RU-486, more commonly known as the abortion pill. It is a safe and effective method of abortion that first causes the fetus to stop growing and then a miscarriage. They ordered the medication and Jennie induced an abortion herself. In the state of Idaho this can cost a woman up to 5 years in prison and up to $5000 in fines.
The sister of a family friend heard about Jennie’s story and decided to turn Jennie into the police. Jennie was arrested for her “crime” in part because it was determined that the fetus she aborted was not 14 weeks as she believed but was actually between 5 and 6 months; but a judge eventually dismissed the charges for lack of evidence. After her ordeal, Jennie has decided to step up to the plate and fight against both the physician’s only law AND a new gestational ban recently put into effect in Idaho. The first 20 week ban was passed in Nebraska and following that Idaho, Kansas, Alabama, Indiana and Oklahoma all passed similar bans based on the theory that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. Despite the unclear nature of the research presented, this theory has been used to justify impeding a woman from getting an abortion. In Idaho, the law provides an exception if the woman’s life is in danger, but not if there is a threat to her health.
Jennie believes these laws serve as major impediments to women seeking abortions if they live in rural areas. She says if abortion had been more widely available, she wouldn’t have had to resort to an at home abortion. All true, if the laws were not so imposing, it may have been possible for Jennie to see a nurse practitioner to procure an abortion at a location closer than Salt Lake City, Utah. This lawsuit will be the first to challenge a “fetal pain” ban at the federal level and her lawyers feel it is likely to be found unconstitutional.
In the past ten years, the Idaho government has spent $730,000 defending anti-abortion laws that were eventually overturned, so the state now requires that the attorney general’s office review all anti-abortion laws. Though apparently they do this for no reason; the attorney general’s office reviewed this bill and warned lawmakers it would likely be found unconstitutional under the 14th amendment. They clearly passed it anyway.
I don’t know about you, but my reaction to Jennie’s courage and determination to fight on behalf of the women of Idaho? “You go girl!”