By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
Senate State Affairs on Monday advanced a bill that would make it a crime for an adult to assist a juvenile in getting an abortion without her parent’s consent.
Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, sponsored HB 242, which passed the House in a 57-12 vote.
The bill made it out of Senate State Affairs on a party line vote with only Sen. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, and Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, voting against it.
Any person convicted of “abortion trafficking” would face a felony crime punishable by two to five years in prison.
All abortion is illegal in Idaho, with rare exceptions for reported rape, incest and the life of the mother.
The bill also includes a civil cause of action that allows a lawsuit to be brought against the medical professional who assisted the woman in getting an abortion under these circumstances for no less than $20,000. The lawsuit may be brought by a relative of the terminated fetus, including the father, sibling, grandparents, or aunt or uncle. The lawsuit may not be brought by the father if the pregnancy is result of rape or incest, but could still be brought by a family member of the rapist.
The nearest out-of-state abortion clinics for most Idahoans are in Oregon and Washington. In Washington, minors can legally get an abortion without parental consent. In Oregon, girls 15 and older can get an abortion without parental consent, but girls 14 and younger do need parental permission. Montana law requires parental permission, but that law is temporarily enjoined by a court order, meaning the policy isn’t in effect. Wyoming and Utah have bans on elective abortions.
Megan Wold from Right to Life Idaho presented some of the amendments proposed in the committee. Among the amendments, the bill would no longer impact people who work for health insurance companies and offer information about insurance coverage, Wold said.
It also allows physicians to use their insurance policy, should they need it, according to Wold.
Wintrow asked why the case was still structured as an affirmative defense, meaning a person could be charged and would need to defend themselves, even if the parent consented to the abortion.
“The bill is structured as an affirmative defense, but any prosecutor is going to know their case before they bring it and knowing that a parent can consent to this, no prosecutor is going to bring a case knowing the parent will say ‘I consented to this treatment,’” Wold said. “On the ground, it’s not going to make a difference.”
Samantha Doty, a physician’s assistant with Stanton Healthcare, testified in support of the bill. Stanton Healthcare is a “life-affirming” crisis pregnancy center.
“About 5% of all of our pregnant clients at Stanton Healthcare are under the age of 18,” Doty said. “These women come to us scared out of their minds, searching desperately for help. Most of them have not shared the news of their pregnancy with their parents and they are extremely vulnerable seeking direction for the next steps.”
Doty argued minors can be easily influenced, depending on who they turn to in crisis.
Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, state director for the Planned Parenthood Alliance, testified in opposition to the bill.
“This policy will discourage young people from asking trusted adults for help and puts young people who do not feel safe disclosing a pregnancy to their parents at risk,” she said.
DelliCarpini-Tolman argued it is a dangerous suggestion that a person could face prosecution in Idaho for helping someone access health care that is legal in another state.
“The mere suggestion that the state would consider prosecuting someone for assisting a young person access a safe, legal medical care in another state flies in the face of the American democratic system and sets an incredibly dangerous statutory precedent,” she said.
The bill moves forward to the Senate for possible amendment.