Newsflash: people do not lose their civil rights when they become pregnant.
Yet this is exactly what's at stake when states pass discriminatory laws that harm pregnant people's health, dignity, and autonomy. One such state is right here in our region: Idaho.
First, the good: Idaho law does recognize that all adults have the right to make decisions regarding their health care. It also acknowledges their right to detail those decisions in advance, so that if they are incapacitated and unable to consent to care, their wishes can be carried out. This is done through a document called an advance medical directive.
But that's where the good ends. The law goes on to say that if a person is pregnant, their advance directives are void and the state can make decisions about the care that person receives. Which is bad enough, but the state goes even further and claims that if an incapacitated person is pregnant, "life sustaining measures will continue regardless of any directive to the contrary until the pregnancy is complete." (Emphasis ours. Because we are outraged!)
In other words: this law takes away a pregnant person's decision-making power, even when they have explicitly detailed the care they want—or do not want—to receive. We are fighting to reclaim Idahoans' rights to make their own decisions about their health care and their bodies, regardless of their gender or ability to become pregnant.
While we are thrilled to be expanding and defending gender justice in Idaho, we are so frustrated that laws like these exist. They are part of a disturbing trend in which states interfere with private health care decisions in favor of protecting fetal rights, all while undermining the rights of women and everyone with the capacity to become pregnant.
We are working to end this this trend and reinforce the rights of all people to make their own health care decisions.
Special thanks to Perkins Coie attorneys Richard C. Boardman, Alison Hunter, and Katherine E. Page (a Legal Voice board member!) for their outstanding and continuing efforts as cooperating counsel in this case.
This case in the press:
Lawsuit challenges Idaho law nullifying living wills for pregnant women, Idaho Press 5/31/18
4 women sue Idaho over law that voids your living will if you’re pregnant, Idaho Statesman 5/31/18
One of our clients, Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln (left), with her wife, Van. Together with Chelsea and her fellow plaintiffs, we are fighting for all pregnant Idahoans' rights to make their own health care decisions.