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House State Affairs introduces a bill to clarify Idaho abortion law

Rep. Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) introduced the bill to eliminate 'affirmative defense.' It also requires any abortion for rape or incest to occur in first trimester.

BOISE, Idaho — The House State Affairs Committee voted to introduce a bill to be officially numbered later that would further define what constitutes a legal abortion in Idaho.

House Majority Leader Rep. Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) sponsors the bill alongside Sen. Todd Lakey (R-Nampa). Rep. Blanksma stood to introduce the bill in committee.

The legislation explicitly states the following would not be considered an abortion:

  • The removal of a dead unborn child.
  • The removal of an ectopic or molar pregnancy.
  • The treatment of a woman who is no longer pregnant.

Abortions in Idaho are currently only legal only in the case of rape reported to police, incest, or a doctor’s discretion to save the mother’s life. The bill would further require an abortion for rape or incest to take place within the first trimester of pregnancy.

Anyone who reports a rape to police is also entitled to receive a redacted copy of the police report within 72 hours - this copy would be considered part of the woman's medical record and subject to all relevant privacy laws under that status.

"It's to make sure that doctors know where the lines are, because they felt uncomfortable some of the fluidity. That's what this bill was a result of," Rep. Blanksma told KTVB. "Some people want abortion to be legal in Idaho and that's just how they are. And there are some of us who do not want abortion to be legal in Idaho. And that position is not going to change either. So, when it's an either-or issue, there's not a lot of compromise."

The bill also removes the affirmative defense clause from the state abortion law. Under affirmative defense, all abortions are to be presumed illegal; any doctor who performs an abortion in Idaho has the burden of proving their own innocence.

"Well, that was something that I know, the [Idaho Medical Association] was interested in various hospitals were interested in. And so that was one of the negotiation points that we were willing to remove that," Rep. Blanksma said.

This bill would return any prosecution of an abortion in question to 'innocent until proven guilty.' It's a section of the bill supported by House Minority Leader Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise), but she is not impressed with the rest of the legislation.

"This is so far from a fix. If this is [the republicans] idea of a fix, women in Idaho are in real trouble," Rep. Rubel said. "We will still see doctors fleeing the state. And we will still see women in Idaho facing mortal danger under this law."

Democrats in committee, Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) and Rep. Brooke Green (D-Boise), both spoke openly against the bill. They did not, however, vote against introducing the bill.

"There are many scenarios in which a woman will have lifelong health consequences that may short fall short of death," Rep. Rubel said. "This bill comes so far from solving any problems. And I would say this is a case where they created the problem. This was a there was no problem until Idaho's Republican politicians took matters into their own hands and passed laws to drive doctors out of state and to jeopardize the lives and health of women."

Bonner General Health in Sandpoint announced this month they will no longer deliver babies for a variety of issues. The hospital system partially blamed Idaho's political climate.

“The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,” the hospital wrote in a statement. “Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.”

The Idaho GOP party platform, as revised and adopted in July 2022, does not support any form of abortion.

"We reaffirm our support for the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, and for the rights of the unborn child. We oppose abortion based on sex selection, convenience, or as a method of birth control," The platform said. "We oppose all abortion."

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