Idaho Top Court Allows Near-Total Abortion Ban to Take Effect

Idaho’s top court on Friday refused to stop a Republican-backed state law criminalizing nearly all abortions from taking effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade that had recognized a constitutional right to the procedure.

In a 3-2 ruling, the Idaho Supreme Court rejected a bid by a Planned Parenthood affiliate to prevent a ban from taking effect on Aug. 25 that the abortion provider argued would violate Idahoans’ privacy and equal protection rights under the state’s constitution. The measure allows for abortions only in cases of rape, incest or to prevent a pregnant woman’s death.

The court also lifted an earlier order that it issued in April blocking a separate Idaho law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy enforced through private lawsuits by citizens, allowing it to take effect immediately.

Justice Robyn Brody, writing for the court, said given the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision, Planned Parenthood was not entitled to the “drastic” relief it sought, noting that abortion was illegal in Idaho before the Roe decision.

“Moreover, what Petitioners are asking this Court to ultimately do is to declare a right to abortion under the Idaho Constitution when – on its face – there is none,” Brody added.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement called the ruling “horrific and cruel.”

Idaho state officials did not respond to requests for comment.

About half of the U.S. states have or are expected to seek to ban or curtail abortions following the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized the procedure nationwide.

Those states include Idaho, which like 12 others adopted “trigger” laws banning abortion upon such a decision.

Louisiana’s top court earlier on Friday rejected an appeal by abortion rights supporters seeking to block a similar ban.

The Idaho court did not decide on the merits of Planned Parenthood’s challenge to the ban and instead said it would hear arguments on Sept. 29.

Justice John Stegner in a dissenting opinion said the court should have proceeded more cautiously and blocked the ban in the interim, saying that “never in our nation’s history has a fundamental right once granted to her citizens been revoked.”

The U.S. Justice Department on Aug. 2 separately sued in a bid to block the Idaho ban, saying it conflicts with a federal law requiring hospitals to provide abortion in medical emergencies if necessary. That lawsuit, to be argued on Aug. 22, was the first action by the federal government challenging state abortion laws after Roe was reversed.

Source: Voice of America

What Killed Tons of Fish in a European River? No Answer Yet

Laboratory tests following a mass die-off of fish in the Oder River detected high levels of salinity but no mercury poisoning its waters, Poland’s environment minister said Saturday as the mystery continued as to what killed tons of fish in Central Europe.

Anna Moskwa, the minister of climate and environment, said analyses of river samples taken in both Poland and Germany revealed elevated salt levels. Comprehensive toxicology studies are still underway in Poland, she said.

She said Poland’s state veterinary authority tested seven species of the dead fish and ruled out mercury as the cause of the die-off but was still waiting for results of other substances. She said test results from Germany had also not shown a high presence of mercury.

Pollution suspected

The Oder River runs from Czechia to the border between Poland and Germany before flowing into the Baltic Sea. Some German media had suggested that the river had been poisoned with mercury.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Friday that “huge amounts of chemical waste” were probably dumped intentionally into his country’s second-longest river, causing environmental damage so severe it would take years for the waterway to recover.

On Saturday, Morawiecki vowed to do everything possible to limit the environmental devastation. Poland’s interior minister said a reward of 1 million zlotys ($220,000) would be paid to anyone who helps track down those responsible for polluting the river.

Authorities in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania warned people not to fish or use water from the Szczecin lagoon, as the river’s contaminated water was expected to reach the estuary area on Saturday evening.

“The extent of the fish die-off is shocking. This is a blow to the Oder as a waterway of great ecological value, from which it will presumably not recover for a long time,” said Alex Vogel, the environment minister for Germany’s Brandenburg state, along which the river runs.

The head of Polish waters, Poland’s national water management authority, said Thursday that 10 tons of dead fish had been removed from the river. Hundreds of volunteers were working to help collect dead fish along the German side.

Salt, no mercury

German laboratories said they detected atypical levels of salts that could be linked to the die-off but wouldn’t fully explain them on their own.

Morawiecki acknowledged that some Polish officials were slow to react after huge numbers of dead fish were seen floating and washing ashore, and he said two of them were dismissed.

“For me, however, the most important thing is to deal with this ecological disaster as soon as possible, because nature is our common heritage,” Morawiecki said.

His comments were echoed by Schwedt Mayor Annekathrin Hoppe, whose German town is next to the Lower Oder Valley National Park. She called the contamination of the river “an environmental catastrophe of unprecedented scale” for the region.

Source: Voice of America