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Investigators looked into the claim and discovered a fetus in a box at Ms. McCormack’s home. Examiners later said the fetus had been developing for more than five months.

Authorities charged Ms. McCormack with performing an unlawful abortion, which makes it a felony for anyone other than a health care professional to be involved with terminating a pregnancy.

Mr. Hearn defended Ms. McCormack and the charges were dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning she could be charged again at any time.

The lawyer — who shut down his medical practice about six years ago — didn’t want his client living with the constant threat of prosecution and decided to turn the tables. Rather than wait for the law to come after his client, he and Ms. McCormack decided to go after the law.

Mr. Hearn advanced a lawsuit fighting for Ms. McCormack’s right to take medication to induce an abortion and for doctors‘ rights to prescribe such medication. The challenge also fights the fetal pain abortion ban because prosecutors say Ms. McCormack terminated her pregnancy after Idaho’s limit of 19 weeks.

Ms. McCormack sued in September, becoming the first woman in the nation to challenge the constitutionality of a fetal pain abortion ban.

The federal lawsuit says Idaho’s anti-abortion legislation is an unconstitutional violation of privacy rights, reviving opinions similar to the arguments in Roe v. Wade.

But a judge refused to make the lawsuit a class-action case, a significant setback for Mr. Hearn and Ms. McCormack.

Even if they won, doctors who provide abortions after 19 weeks or prescribe drugs to terminate a pregnancy still could be criminally prosecuted in Idaho, according to the ruling. Mr. Hearn said it effectively ensured that women still would be unable to get abortions after 19 weeks without leaving the state or illegally obtaining prescription drugs online.

Mr. Hearn said that in order for Mr. McCormack to have standing to fight all aspects of the law, “she would have to be pregnant, want to get an abortion, and for some reason have to wait until after the 19 weeks.”

He added, “Viability would begin three or four weeks after that, so it would be virtually impossible for a woman to challenge that statute.”

So to bring the case in a way that would overturn the law and remove the threat of a five-year prison term looming over Ms. McCormack, they needed a doctor to intervene.

Convenient, then, that Ms. McCormack’s lawyer was also an M.D. — albeit one who specialized in arthritis and kidney disease.

Mr. Hearn’s intervention attempt is unheard of among legal experts contacted by the Associated Press.

Deputy Idaho Attorney General Clay Smith dismissed Mr. Hearn’s move as merely an attempt to introduce issues that Ms. McCormack has no standing to present.

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