Idaho Governor Signs 20 Week Abortion Ban Into Law Despite A.G.’s Objections

Robin Marty

Idaho law requires the A.G. review all abortion laws, but the governor rejected his findings

Despite having the state Attorney General advise him that the measure was likely unconstitutional, Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter signed a 20 week abortion ban into law. Idaho, requires that all anti-abortion bills be reviewed first by the A.G. to ensure taxpayer dollars won’t be wasted on frivolous court cases.  But even though the A.G. brought up the unconstitutionality of the bill, the governor decided himself that it would probably be ok.

Via The Republic:

Earlier this year, the Idaho attorney general’s office determined the Republican-backed measure was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment “insofar as it proscribes some non-therapeutic abortions even before a fetus has reached viability.”

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Otter said he met with lawmakers who raised concerns about the bill, but ultimately decided the law would not infringe on constitutional rights and legal principles laid out in the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. The landmark case allows states to limit abortions when there’s a viable chance the fetus could survive outside the womb, generally considered to be between 22 and 24 weeks.

“There’s enough safeguards out in front of that, that it doesn’t infringe on Roe v. Wade,” he said.

Idaho joins Kansas and Nebraska in officially passing the legislation, which is also being considered in multiple other states.  Now the question is which state will eventually field the legal challenge — and be stuck with the overall court costs.

News Science

‘Fraudulent’ Bill Criminalizing Fetal Tissue Donations Heads to Idaho Governor

Nicole Knight Shine

Democratic legislators staged a boycott of the legislation, refusing to attend a committee meeting where the anti-choice bill was set to be heard.

A Republican-backed bill to criminalize the “sale, transfer, distribution or other unlawful disposition” of fetal tissue derived from abortion care is headed to the desk of Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R).

The GOP measure is based on a series of widely discredited videos published by an anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the leaders of which have been indicted on felony and misdemeanor charges related to the group’s smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.

The “Unborn Infants Dignity Act,” SB 1404, outlaws research performed on “bodily remains or embryonic stem cells” derived from abortion care, including scientific work conducted by Idaho colleges and universities that receive public money.

Violators could face criminal penalties as high as five years in prison, a fine up to $10,000, or both.

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SB 1404 passed in the state senate last week in a party-line vote, and cleared the house in a 54-14 vote, with Rep. Fred Wood (R-Burley), a doctor, joining Democratic lawmakers in opposition.

Democratic members of the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday staged a boycott of the legislation, refusing to attend a committee meeting where the anti-choice bill was set to be heard, as the Spokesman-Review reported.

Four Democrats said in a statement provided to Rewire:

As the Democratic members of the House State Affairs Committee, we collectively chose to abstain from participating in today’s hearing of a bill because it is beneath our dignity, it is beneath the dignity of our constituents, and it is not worthy of our time or attention.

The bill before the committee today is a “fraud.” It is fraudulent to use our time here to run special interest bills that are bad public policy. This bill, like many others introduced this session, is designed to inflame a small constituency that these politicians count on to vote for them. That’s campaigning on the public dime.

The anti-choice group Idaho Chooses Life supports the law, which is copycat legislation that the national anti-choice group Americans United for Life is advancing at the state level in GOP strongholds.

Introducing the legislation last week in the house, Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) referenced the surreptitiously recorded videos from CMP that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials participating in the illegal sale of fetal tissue.

Twenty states have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing or declined to investigate, as has Idaho’s governor, who rejected a request by nearly 30 Republican lawmakers to investigate the health-care organization.

Planned Parenthood operates clinics in Boise, Meridian, and Twin Falls, but does not offer a fetal tissue donation program in the state, said Hannah Brass Greer, Idaho legislative director of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, who spoke with Rewire in a phone interview.

“It’s clear that the proponents of this bill are part of the same group of people … that have been behind the attacks nationwide against Planned Parenthood,” Brass Greer said. “Even though Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong … they continue to move forward because no matter what, they oppose safe and legal abortion.”

As Rewire has reported, “[f]ederal law regulates the use of fetal tissue for research or transplant, and as far as federal statutes go, this one is pretty clear. It’s a crime for anyone to buy or sell fetal tissue for profit. It is not a crime to donate and transfer that tissue for research or transplant into another organism or tissue.”

“Donating any tissue or organ for research or transplant is an expensive process,” Rewire Vice President of Law and the Courts Jessica Mason Pieklo added, “which is why the [federal] law specifically states those involved may make and receive ‘reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.’”

Addressing the house on Thursday, Minority Leader John Rusche (D-Lewiston), who practiced pediatrics for 16 years, said he’d seen some people in his practice who chose to donate the organs of fetuses that were aborted because the fetuses would not have survived outside of the womb. He said the legislation would make this illegal, as MagicValley.com reported.

Rep. Mat Erpelding (D-Boise) grew emotional as he told lawmakers that he would have donated the organs of his stillborn fetus to save someone else.

“Running legislation on innuendo and passion is one thing,” Erpelding continued, as MagicValley.com reported. “Potentially harming the opportunity to save another child’s life because of a point that’s trying to be made is wrong.”

Otter has until April 1 to sign or veto the bill. If he fails to do either, it will automatically become law. The governor has a record of signing anti-choice restrictions.

News Abortion

Unconstitutional 20-Week Abortion Ban Primed to Pass in South Carolina

Teddy Wilson

The state senate passed the bill Tuesday in a 36-9 vote, as eight Democrats joined the Republican majority.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said that she would likely sign an unconstitutional ban on abortion care at 20 or more weeks of pregnancy. The bill’s path to the governor’s desk, however, has become uncertain

H 3114, sponsored by Rep. Wendy Nanney (R-Greenville), would ban abortions at 20 weeks or more post-fertilization unless, in the physician’s judgment, abortion care is necessary to avert the pregnant person’s death or avoid the risk of physical impairment of a major bodily function, other than a psychological condition. The measure’s limited definition of “fetal anomaly” means it would be illegal to abort many fetuses with severe disabilities. Senate Democrats have previously blocked the legislation.

Physicians who violate the anti-choice measure could face up to a $10,000 fine and three years in prison.

“I can’t imagine any scenario in which I wouldn’t sign it,” Haley told the Associated Press.

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South Carolina’s Republican lawmakers have pushed for similar legislation before, but Democrats have managed to block their efforts. Republicans were able to pass the bill this year after an epic legislative journey, as lawmakers added and removed amendments and debated the language of the unconstitutional abortion ban.

At issue has been what exceptions would be included in the bill. The current bill allows exceptions if the pregnant person’s life is in jeopardy or a doctor determines the fetus can’t survive outside the womb. There is no exception for rape or incest.

House members amended the measure to include such exceptions after the bill was first introduced in January 2015. The state senate amended the bill and stripped out the exceptions after state Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) filibustered the bill, charging there should be no exceptions included in the bill. 

The state senate passed the bill last week in a 36-9 vote, as eight Democrats joined the Republican majority in voting for the version of the bill negotiated by a conference committee of three house members and three state senators.

A two-thirds majority of state senators present is needed to approve the conference committee bill. However, a two-thirds majority of all representatives, regardless of whether or not they are present, is needed for approval in the house.

Two votes have failed to gain the 83 votes needed for approval. The house failed to pass the bill on March 9 by one vote, and again failed to pass the bill on March 10, falling three votes shy.

State Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) told the State that lawmakers have no business dictating to pregnant people what they should do about their health care. “I have faith in the women of South Carolina that they know best what to do when the time comes to make a decision about their bodies,” Hutto said.

Laws to ban abortion at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy with varying exceptions have been enacted in 16 states, and the courts have blocked those laws in three states: Arizona, Georgia, and Idaho.

The so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, based on copycat legislation authored by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), justifies the ban on the theory that a fetus can experience pain at 20 weeks of pregnancy. The claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks has been discredited by medical professionals.

Hospitals are the only facilities in which pregnant people seeking to terminate a pregnancy at 20 weeks or later could obtain abortion care. South Carolina’s three abortion clinics do not provide the procedure past 18 weeks.

Lawmakers must approve the conference committee compromise bill by the time the legislative session ends in June.