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Bill adding clarifying language to Idaho abortion law heads to Gov. Little’s desk


Bill adding clarifying language to Idaho abortion law heads to Gov. Little’s desk

Mar 30, 2023 | 8:12 pm ET
By Mia Maldonado
Bill adding clarifying language to Idaho abortion law heads to Gov. Little’s desk
Amending the existing definition of abortion, legislators in support of House Bill 374 said it addresses concerns from medical practictioners. (Getty Images)

Idaho Gov. Brad Little will soon decide on whether to sign a bill aimed at addressing physicians’ fears about being prosecuted under Idaho’s abortion laws.

Just one day after it passed almost unanimously in the House of Representatives, the Senate State Affairs Committee printed House Bill 374 and sent it to the Senate floor Thursday afternoon where it passed in a 26-7 vote. 

In an attempt to address the concerns of medical providers, the bill adds language stating that birth control methods, including the pill and IUDs, are not considered violations of the state’s abortion law. It also clarifies that the removal of a dead fetus, the removal of ectopic or molar pregnancies, which occur when a fertilized egg implants in an area outside of the uterus, are not considered abortions. 

The bill comes less than two weeks after Bonner General Health, the only hospital in Sandpoint, made the decision to end its obstetrical services. The Idaho Capital Sun previously reported that the decision came because of a loss of pediatricians, changing demographics and Idaho’s legal and political climate around health care. The North Idaho hospital is about one hour away from Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene. 

Sen. Todd Lakey (R, Nampa)
Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, listens to a Senate floor debate at the Idaho Capitol on Jan. 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

“This clarifies our intent, it’s responsive to some of the concerns that have been raised, and it also maintains our strong commitment in the state of Idaho to protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child,” Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said on the Senate floor. 

The new legislation still states that an individual who is a victim of rape or incest may seek an abortion after filing and obtaining a police report, and it adds that “a copy of the report shall remain a confidential part of the woman’s medical record subject to applicable privacy laws.” It also adds that a victim of rape or incest is entitled to receive a copy of the police report within 72 hours of a request — however, the bill does narrow the window in which a rape or incest victim can seek an abortion to within the first trimester, or the first 12 weeks, of the pregnancy.

Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, said he supports the legislation, but his only concern is related to the rape and incest exception.

“We have some progress to be made here,” he said. “However, I am going to support this legislation because I think it’s helpful.”

‘There is no fix for this bill’: Idaho legislators who oppose bill say

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said on the Senate floor that the bill prioritizes only the life of the mother, but not her health. She said the bill does not fully address the complexity of abortion or address the issue to an extent that will keep physicians from leaving Idaho.

Idaho Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow,
Idaho Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, listens to action on the Senate floor at the State Capitol building in Boise on Jan. 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Only one Democrat was present during Wednesday’s House vote for the bill. Communications director for the Idaho Legislature Derek Farr previously told the Capital Sun that the group walked out because they were angry and frustrated with the bill. 

“I’ve heard from physician after physician that they’re in the emergency room and they’re in clinics having to call their legal team to make sure they can do this procedure because somebody’s life may be in jeopardy,” Wintrow said during the debate. 

Wintrow said Idaho abortion laws are creating additional hurdles and trauma for women, particularly those who have experienced sexual assault.

“There is no fix for this bill, quite frankly, unless the Legislature determines to get out of the medical business and let physicians do the scientific work that they were trained to do,” she said.