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Posted on November 8, 2019 at 9:17 PM

A federal court today rejected a motion by State of Idaho
defendants to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state
statute that invalidates a person’s advance directive if they have been
diagnosed as pregnant. 

The Court determined that the Plaintiffs may proceed
with their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statute. 

The lawsuit, Almerico et al. v.
State of Idaho et al
, was filed in May 2018 by Compassion & Choices and
Legal Voice on behalf of four Idaho women. 

The outcome of the suit could have
repercussions for similar laws in nine states: Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, South
Carolina, Texas, Utah
. Washington
repealed a similar law in the 1980s.

Idaho’s Medical Consent and
Natural Death Act

recognizes: “…the fundamental right of competent persons to control the
decisions relating to the rendering of their medical care, including the
decision to have life-sustaining procedures withheld or withdrawn.” But the law states that if a
person has “been diagnosed as pregnant, this Directive shall have no force
during the course of [their] pregnancy.”

This law
disregards a person’s wishes for the care they want or do not want to receive.
For this reason, Compassion & Choices and Legal Voice argue that Idaho’s
law violates people’s constitutional rights to legal equality and to direct
their own medical care. 

All four
plaintiffs are women of childbearing age and have completed advance directives
detailing their healthcare preferences if they are unable to speak for
themselves. Some of their health care directives include provisions about
pregnancy and some do not, reflecting their different expectations about their
medical care if they become terminally ill while pregnant. 

“This law is a
slap in the face to every pregnant person in Idaho,” said plaintiff Chelsea
Gaona-Lincoln, a behavioral therapist who was pregnant with her first child
when the lawsuit was filed in May, but since has given birth and lives in Caldwell, Idaho. “I am
thankful my baby and I both are healthy now. But the thought that my healthcare
decisions in my advance directive were not guaranteed during my pregnancy is
deeply offensive. My ability to make decisions didn’t change because of my
pregnancy and I would not have wanted a state official dictating my family’s
end-of-life care decisions.”

The other
three plaintiffs are Anna Almerico, Micaela de Loyola-Carkin and Hannah Sharp,
all of whom live in Boise,
. The lawsuit defendants are the Idaho Secretary of State
Lawrence Denney, Idaho
Attorney General
Lawrence Wasden and the Idaho Health and Welfare Department
Dave Jeppesen.

refusal to recognize the right of all people, regardless of gender, to make
decisions as to their own health care violates the due process and equal
protection clauses of the United States Constitution,” says the plaintiffs’
complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho by the Boise office of Perkins Coie
“Accordingly, Plaintiffs seek a judgment declaring unconstitutional the portion
of the law that automatically invalidates a woman’s health care directive if
she is diagnosed as pregnant.”

The complaint
also asks the court to permanently prohibit Defendants from “nullifying
otherwise valid health care directives on the basis of pregnancy” and from
“stating that [health care directives] will not be enforced or otherwise
considered valid during pregnancy.”

“The pregnancy
exclusion is patently unconstitutional because it violates the fundamental
rights to body integrity, to direct or refuse medical treatment and to equality
under the law. It also violates the first amendment right to free speech,” said
Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices
. “These rights survive
throughout pregnancy and this ruling means the court takes our arguments seriously.”

“The pregnancy
exclusion deprives people who can become pregnant of their fundamental right to
direct their own medical care, suggesting that their decisions about their
health, and when and whether to allow bodily interventions to maintain their lives,
are less worthy of respect than others’ decisions,” said Kim Clark, senior
attorney for Legal Voice. “The idea that the state should make these deeply
personal decisions for its citizens and potentially subject a whole class of
people to medical interventions against their will, offends the most sacred
right of every individual to the possession and control over her own body.
Worse, this demeaning treatment has no basis in medical ethics or science.
Instead, it is based on gender stereotypes of women’s roles, including the
capacity for pregnancy and childrearing, once used to justify laws excluding
women from civic, professional, and political life.”

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