by Ruth Brown and Logan Finney, Idaho Reports
The Senate State Affairs Committee introduced a series of bills on Monday that would amend the state’s definition of abortion, provisions in local public works contracts regarding transgender people and restrooms, and the way self-defense cases are handled.
Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, introduced the legislation to be printed. The committee will hold public hearings on the bills at a later date.
One abortion bill would shift the focus of Idaho’s abortion statues to the status of a fetus or embryo, rather than that of a pregnancy. It adds language clarifying that “abortion” shall cover the intentional termination of a human embryo or fetus, and not include unintentional death or conduct that occurs after the natural death of any human embryo or fetus.
The draft bill is intended to offer clarity to doctors in situations such as ectopic pregnancies, in which a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies are never viable and can be fatal to the pregnant woman if left untreated.
“I think it’s a great solution to a real issue. I have doctors in our community that I know have expressed concern that they could be working to save the life of a mother, and there could be an issue where they would feel like they were stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Sen. Ben Toews, R-Coeur d’Alene,
Sen. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, voted against the proposal, arguing it possibly takes away some protections for medical providers. Both Ruchti and Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, voted against introducing the bill.
Herndon also presented a draft bill that would have removed existing abortion exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, but the committee voted not to introduce that proposal. Only Toews voted in support of removing those exemptions.
Public works contracts
Another bill introduced in Senate State Affairs focuses on local public works contracts and treatment of transgender people.
Herndon explained that federal regulations include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, and require public works contractors who receive federal funds to provide restrooms and changing rooms for their employees that match their gender identity.
If passed into law, local government contracts for public works projects in Idaho would no longer be required to contain those restroom provisions if the projects use only state and local funds and no federal funding.
The bill states that a bidder, offeror, or contractor shall not be required to offer a multiple-occupancy restroom or shower facility that may be used by any person other than their biological sex. The bill defines biological sex as the sex that is on a person’s birth certificate.
The committee voted to introduce the bill.
The Senate State Affairs Committee also voted to introduce a bill that would significantly change policy around justifiable homicide under Idaho’s stand your ground laws.
The legislation brought by Herndon would add a new section of law stating that if a person is arrested on suspicion of murder, but claims it was in self-defense, they could request a court hearing within 14 days of their arrest.
At such a hearing, a prosecutor would be required to prove with clear and convincing evidence that the incident was not in self-defense. Herndon argued that sometimes defendants face lengthy incarceration times before later being acquitted.
While presenting the draft bill, Herndon referenced Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two people during unrest in 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges in a criminal trial.
If a case does go to trial and the defendant is acquitted, a judge would have the option of polling the jurors and asking if they believed the incident was in self-defense. If so, the judge would have the option of awarding recovery of costs.
Logan Finney | Associate Producer
Logan Finney is a North Idaho native with a passion for media production and boring government meetings. He grew up skiing, hunting and hiking in the mountains of Bonner County and has maintained a lifelong interest in the state’s geography, history and politics. Logan joined the Idaho Reports team in 2020 as a legislative session intern and stayed to cover the COVID-19 pandemic. He was hired as an associate producer in 2021 and they haven’t been able to get rid of him since.