Idaho S. Ct. Holds Constitution Doesn’t Protect Right to Abortion
From Justice Robyn Brody’s majority opinion yesterday in Planned Parenthood Great Northwest v. State (joined by Justices Richard Bevan and Gregory Moeller):
The Idaho Constitution does not contain an explicit right to abortion. Nevertheless, Petitioners argue that certain provisions implicitly enshrine abortion as a right entitled to heightened protection from the legislature’s broad power to regulate conduct. In other words, they contend abortion is a “fundamental” right. If Petitioners are correct, this would place abortion alongside other “fundamental” rights that are expressly granted in the Idaho Constitution, such as: the right to vote, the power of the people to propose laws and enact the same at the polls independent of the legislature (i.e., the voter initiative), and the power of the people to approve or reject at the polls any act or measure passed by the legislature (i.e., the referendum).
For the reasons discussed below, we cannot read a fundamental right to abortion into the text of the Idaho Constitution. Since Idaho attained statehood in 1890, this Court has repeatedly and steadfastly interpreted the Idaho Constitution based on the plain and ordinary meaning of its text, as intended by those who framed and adopted the provision at issue. That is our duty as the judicial branch: to sustain the rule of law—not to promote our personal policy preferences. If we were to jettison that disciplined approach, even in the face of a uniquely emotional and politically divisive policy issue, the Idaho Constitution would no longer be the voice of the people of Idaho—it would be effectively replaced by the voice of a select few sitting on this Court.
The Inalienable Rights Clause in Article I, section 1 of the Idaho Constitution, which lists the rights to life, liberty, and property, provides the textual basis for the recognition of implicit fundamental rights. Indeed, Article I, section 21, while not purporting to be a repository of implicit rights, provides that the listing of rights in the Idaho Constitution “shall not be construed to impair or deny other rights retained by the people.” The Inalienable Rights Clause was framed at Idaho’s constitutional convention in 1889 and ratified by the people of Idaho later that same year. Thus, for us to read a fundamental right into the Idaho Constitution, we must examine whether the alleged right is so “deeply rooted” in the traditions and history of Idaho at the time of statehood that we can fairly conclude that the framers and adopters of the Inalienable Rights Clause intended to implicitly protect that right.
When we apply that test to this dispute, there simply is no support for a conclusion that a right to abortion was “deeply rooted” at the time the Inalienable Rights Clause was adopted. Nothing in the territorial laws of Idaho, the record of the 1889 constitutional convention, the surrounding common law and statutes, the surrounding publications of the times, or Idaho’s medical regulations at that time show abortion was viewed as a right entitled to heightened protection from the legislature’s regulatory power. To the contrary, the relevant history and traditions of Idaho show abortion was viewed as an immoral act and treated as a crime. Thus, we cannot co
Article from Reason.com