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Planned Parenthood of Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands v. Wasden

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 15, 2019

PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF THE GREAT NORTHWEST AND THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS, a Washington corporation; MARY STARK, on behalf of herself and her patients, Plaintiffs,
v.
LAWRENCE G. WASDEN, in his official capacity as Attorney General of Idaho; JAN M. BENNETTS, in her official capacity as Ada County Prosecuting Attorney; GRANT P. LOEBS, in his official capacity as Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney; THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE STATE BOARD OF MEDICINE, in their official capacity; THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE STATE BOARD OF NURSING, in their official capacity, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to certify the Court's Order of July 24, 2019 for interlocutory appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (Dkt. 57.) After carefully considering the parties' written memoranda and relevant case law, for the reasons the follow, the Court will deny the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands and Mary Stark, a nurse practitioner licensed to practice advanced nursing in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, on behalf of herself and her patients, brought a civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming an Idaho statute that makes it unlawful for any person other than a physician to perform an abortion violates the Constitution of the United States of America. Plaintiffs allege Idaho's “Physician-Only Law” violates their patients' rights to liberty and privacy as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. They also argue the law violates equal protection rights of patients and Advanced Practice Clinicians (APCs), like Ms. Stark, under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

         Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint, asserting Plaintiffs' substantive due process claims are foreclosed by binding Supreme Court precedent, and that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim for relief or meet the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. (Dkt. 33.) After careful consideration of the motion to dismiss, the Court denied it in full. (Memorandum Decision and Order, Dkt. 54.)

         In denying the motion, the Court rejected the same argument Defendants make here-that the Supreme Court's 1997 holding in Mazurek v. Armstrong controls the disposition of Plaintiffs' due process-based undue burden claims-and therefore, Plaintiff's claims are precluded as a matter of law. (See Order, Dkt. 54 at 8-11. In distinguishing this case from Mazurek, the Court relied on Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (WWH), wherein the Supreme Court has most recently stated the analytical framework for undue burden claims:

We begin with the standard, as described in Casey. We recognize that the “State has a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient.” But, we added, “a statute which, while furthering [a] valid state interest, has the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman's choice cannot be considered a permissible means of serving its legitimate ends.” Moreover, “[u]nnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right.”

MDO, Dkt. 54 at 8 quoting WWH at 2309 (quoting Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 150 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 877-78 (1992)).

         The Court found “WWH cemented the Casey standard as a contextual, fact-based inquiry where a trial court must assess the impact of the alleged regulatory burden as specifically applied.” Id. Provided this, the Court concluded that the “fact-intensive balancing inquiry required by WWH guides this Court's approach” to Plaintiff's undue burden claims. Id.

         Defendants' present motion argues the Court should certify the question regarding whether the WWH standard applies to Plaintiff's undue burden claims, or whether, as they advance, the Supreme Court intended to draw a bright line prohibiting undue burden claims based on state-made physician-only laws, i.e. whether Mazurek forecloses Plaintiffs' undue burden claims. The Defendants define the “Mazurek question” as follows:

Whether Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968 (1997), and the U.S. Supreme Court precedent relied on in Mazurek, established a bright line rule precluding Plaintiffs' substantive due process claim because in order “to ensure the safety of the abortion procedure, … States may mandate that only physicians perform abortions[.]”

(Dkt. 57-1 at 2.)

         The Court will analyze the merits of ...


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