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Republicans Are Again Paying Planned Parenthood’s Legal Fees

Nicole Knight

"These unconstitutional and harmful laws should have never passed in the first place and this is the outcome states face," said Mistie Tolman, an official with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. "We will continue to challenge laws that create barriers to safe, legal abortion."

Idaho Republicans are quite literally paying the price for a failed attempt to bar providers from prescribing abortion inducing pills via telemedicine.

A panel of four Republicans, including the state’s governor, unanimously voted Wednesday to pay $151,209.88 in attorney fees to Planned Parenthood in a legal settlement related to a pair of bills restricting medication abortion, as the Spokesman-Review reported.

“We owe this money,” Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said before the vote.

The payment stems from anti-choice legislation in 2015, when Idaho Republicans, who control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office, passed bills that leveled a one-two punch against medication abortion. HB 189 prohibited providers from remotely prescribing the pills to induce abortion. HB 154 mandated in-person doctor visits for those in the largely rural state seeking medication abortion, a safe and common regime taken early in pregnancy.

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Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands in 2015 challenged the telemedicine restrictions in federal court. A court settlement requires the legislature to repeal the bills this year.

The repeal bill cleared the House on Wednesday in a 52 to 18 vote. Some House Republicans teared up as they voted to advance the repeal legislation, HB 250, as the Associated Press reported. HB 250 now heads to the state Senate, where Republicans hold 29 seats, and Democrats only 6 seats.

Mistie Tolman, Idaho legislative director and public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, suggested in an email to Rewire that a protracted legal battle would have cost Idaho even more.

“These unconstitutional and harmful laws should have never passed in the first place and this is the outcome states face,” Tolman said. “We will continue to challenge laws that create barriers to safe, legal abortion.”

Wisconsin owes Planned Parenthood $1.6 million in legal fees over a law requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges, and Alaska spent nearly $1 million defending an unconstitutional parental notification measure, as Rewire reported. Texas, meanwhile, owes upwards of $4 million over onerous abortion restrictions that the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional.

The $151,209.88 in court fees will be paid from Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Fund, as the Spokesman-Review reported. The fund was set up to pay for litigation to defend the state’s sovereignty, but has largely been spent on the state’s losing legal battles on other issues.

Research indicates it’s equally safe for people to take abortion inducing medications at home or in a clinic—and the comfort of home is often preferable.

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