BOISE — A bill to ban most abortions in Idaho if Roe v. Wade is overturned is headed to the Idaho Senate, one of two bills to restrict abortion in Idaho making its way through the legislative process in the waning days of the 2020 legislative session.
"If I could overturn Roe v. Wade and its progeny tomorrow, I would," bill sponsor Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said Tuesday. "But we live in a nation of laws that I respect and nullification is not a viable or realistic option."
Lakey's bill, which is known as a "trigger law," would take effect if the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling or subsequent federal court rulings that have upheld a constitutional right to abortion are overturned, or if the U.S. Constitution is amended to let states regulate it. It would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by two to five years in prison but would not criminalize the mother. It would be an affirmative defense that the abortion was performed to save the mother’s life or because the pregnancy was due to rape or incest, if said act was reported to the police or a social services agency.
President Donald Trump's election and his efforts to reshape the federal courts by appointing more conservative judges have given abortion opponents hope they will soon have more power to restrict abortion, and Lakey said it is possible a ruling letting Idaho outlaw abortion could come down when the Legislature isn't in session.
"This provides the ability to have that legislation become effective without further legislative action," Lakey said. "And if that can save the life of one unborn child it's worth it."
The Senate State Affairs Committee voted along party lines, with the Republicans in favor and the Democrats opposed, to advance Lakey's bill to the full Senate. Another anti-abortion bill sponsored by Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, to take all public funds away from most abortion providers, passed the House last week and awaits a Senate hearing. Like Zollinger's bill, Lakey's ran into opposition not only from abortion rights supporters but from people who think bills like theirs don't go far enough.
"Tyrants should be opposed, not appeased," said Scott Herndon, with Abolish Abortion Idaho.
Herndon and others who share his outlook believe abortion should be illegal and prosecuted as murder under all circumstances, including when a pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. They also believe the mother should be criminally liable as well as the doctor. Herndon urged the State Affairs Committee to ignore the federal courts and take stronger steps to end abortion.
"God has ordained you to interpose yourselves between the tyrant court and the children being murdered. ... King Jesus will judge you not by what is politically possible but by what he has commanded you to do as a Legislature," Herndon said.
Groups such as Abolish Abortion Idaho sometimes compare the movement to end abortion with the abolitionist movement to end slavery. A couple of people who testified at Tuesday's hearing compared abortion to slavery, leading each time to an objection from Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, and to an admonishment from committee Chairwoman Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, to stay on topic.
Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, has been pushing bills for the past couple of years to ban abortion without exceptions and let it be prosecuted as murder, but it hasn't gotten a hearing yet. She tried to force the question a week-and-a-half ago with a motion to get her bill pulled out of the House Ways and Means Committee but was voted down by the full House.