During his first year as Idaho Attorney General, Raul Labrador has placed most of his chips on the abortion issue in his quest for higher office. He has been aided and abetted, free of charge, by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a powerful extreme-right legal organization in the nation’s capital that is intent on stamping out any perceived form of abortion across the entire country. ADF played a major role in overturning Roe v. Wade.
Labrador began his term as AG with a March 27 opinion declaring that Idaho’s strictest-in-the-nation abortion laws criminalized Idaho doctors for “providing abortion pills” and “either referring a woman across state lines to access abortion services” or to obtain abortion pills. When the opinion was challenged in court, Labrador withdrew it, but refused to disavow it. Strangely enough, Idaho’s laws are so strict that the opinion was probably correct, even though seriously suspect under the U.S. Constitution.
Since that time, Labrador has opposed a federal rule change that would protect the confidentiality of pregnant women’s medical records from snooping state attorneys general. The rule is designed to protect the privacy of women who travel out of state for pregnancy care. Labrador has also strenuously sought to enforce Idaho’s “abortion trafficking” law.
With free help from ADF, Labrador was able to prevent women with dangerous pregnancy conditions from getting stabilizing medical care in Idaho’s hospital emergency rooms. The only exception is where an abortion is “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.” Women who need care for a much-wanted, but non-viable, pregnancy have been forced out of state in order to get the care they need. The emergency care issue will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in late April.
The Supreme Court will also consider in April whether to place restrictions on the dispensation of an abortion pill, mifepristone, which prevents pregnancy if taken within 10 days. That case, which originated in federal court in Amarillo, Texas, resulted in a ruling supported and cheered by Labrador and ADF last year. The district judge severely restricted use of the drug, but those restrictions were lessened by a federal circuit court and then lifted by the Supreme Court. The Court will rule on the extent of restrictions, if any, that will apply to dispensation of mifepristone.
Labrador has established quite a track record for cracking down on abortions, even when necessary to protect the life and health of women who are desperate to have a child. But nothing can compare to the move he made in that federal court in Amarillo last November. He and two other state AGs asked the court for permission to file a complaint that seeks to totally ban the use of mifepristone and a follow-up drug, misoprostol, throughout the country. Misoprostol is used to induce a miscarriage.
The lengthy complaint, which was likely drafted by ADF and its allies, is chock full of questionable assertions, including preposterous claims that both drugs are dangerous to patients. In the press coverage I’ve seen about the complaint, the request to ban the use of misoprostol has been overlooked. The requested ban is significant because that drug has been used safely and effectively for decades. Yet, right there at page 102, Labrador and the other two AGs ask the judge to order federal agencies “to withdraw mifepristone and misoprostol as FDA-approved chemical abortion drugs.” That is, to ban the use of both drugs throughout the country.
On January 12 the judge granted the motion to file the complaint, so it will presumably proceed on a separate track from the case to be considered by the Supreme Court in April. AFD was lucky to have the three states front for it because it would not have had standing to get the case into court on its own–it’s good to have pliable, accommodating state attorneys general.
If misoprostol is taken off the market, women like Kristin Colson of Boise will face the heart-breaking situation of a wanted, but non-viable pregnancy, made worse by having no medication available to safely manage the miscarriage. Colson had an anembryonic pregnancy and opted for misoprostol, rather than surgery or waiting weeks for her body to pass the tissue. She was surprised when the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription. She was able to get the prescription filled elsewhere but, if Labrador were to prevail in his Texas lawsuit, there would be no legal source for the drug anywhere in the country.
It is unclear whether Labrador is aware of the impact that his extreme actions have on women who want to have viable pregnancies, but can’t, or whether he is simply blinded by his political ambitions. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how Idaho voters react to his all-in gamble on the abortion issue.