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Idaho GOP Advances Copycat Bill Banning Fetal Tissue Donation

Nicole Knight

The measure requires abortion providers to turn over fetal remains to the patient upon request and obligates the state to issue fetal death certificates in cases of miscarriage.

Idaho Republicans are backing a multipronged approach to outlaw fetal tissue donation after abortion procedures and prohibit state-supported universities from conducting research on tissue derived from the procedure.

The senate State Affairs Committee introduced the bill from state Sen. Cliff Bayer (R-Boise) on a party line vote. Republicans hold a majority in the committee and control both chambers of the Idaho legislature.

Idaho’s Planned Parenthood affiliates don’t conduct fetal tissue donation, said Hannah Brass Greer, Idaho legislative director of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. “[N]o such practice exists” in the state, according to an Associated Press report.

Among its provisions, SB 1349 requires abortion providers to turn over fetal remains to the patient upon request and obligates the state to issue fetal death certificates in cases of miscarriage. Violators would face criminal penalties of up to five years in prison, $10,000 in fines, and a one-year license suspension.

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The anti-choice group Idaho Chooses Life proposed the bill, a copycat of the “Unborn Infants Dignity Act” by the national anti-choice legislation mill known as Americans United for Life (AUL). The Idaho GOP bill adds a new section to state law to declare: “It continues to be the public policy of the state of Idaho to promote live childbirth over abortion.”

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Ohio are advancing similar AUL-drafted measures, while Indiana and Arkansas legislators passed versions of the copycat bill last year.

David Ripley of Idaho Chooses Life, addressing Idaho lawmakers, referenced the widely discredited hidden camera footage from the anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The footage was edited to suggest Planned Parenthood broke the law by selling fetal tissue.

Republican legislators have worked in coordination with CMP officials since the summer to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding. Now, 12 states have cleared the health-care provider of allegations of wrongdoing, and CMP’s ringleaders face felony charges.

SB 1349 also would “[p]rohibit all Idaho institutions of higher education that receive public moneys from engaging in medical research using organs or tissue, including human embryonic stem cells, obtained from aborted infants.”

Brass Greer of Planned Parenthood said the bill would “place unnecessary restrictions on potentially life-saving research.”

“SB 1349 is clearly based on last year’s discredited and heavily biased videos targeting women who donated fetal tissue to medical research in other states,” Greer told Rewire in an emailed statement.

Planned Parenthood officials have said the organization operates fetal tissue donation programs in two statesCalifornia and Washington.

Two Democrats on the committee voted against the bill. State Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb (D-Boise) pointed out that SB 1349 requires changes to Idaho death certificate procedures and asked Ripley whether he had consulted with the state Bureau of Vital Statistics, as the Spokesman-Review reported. Ripley said he hadn’t.

State Sen. Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) noted that current law permits adults to donate their organs, tissue, or remains after death.

The Republican-led committee last week introduced a bill requiring abortion providers to hand out a list of locations, compiled by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, where an abortion patient can get a free ultrasound. Opponents of the measure fear the locations will be mostly crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which are often staffed by anti-choice activists who deceive pregnant people about their options.

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