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Eye On Boise

House panel OK’s bill legalizing telemedicine abortions

Two 2015 laws banning prescription of abortion-causing drugs by telemedicine, rather than an in-person examination, would be repealed, under legislation that cleared the House State Affairs Committee today at the behest of anti-abortion lobbyist David Ripley.

Though that procedure wasn’t used in Idaho, backers of the bill said they wanted to make sure Idaho never saw “web-cam abortions.” Ripley, head of Idaho Chooses Life, said the measures, which he pushed two years ago, have been found unconstitutional in a federal court, and the Legislature repealing them would leave his movement in a better position than having a court overturn them. Under a settlement, the federal court is awaiting legislative action; if lawmakers don’t repeal the two laws, the court will declare them unconstitutional and void.

Ripley told the committee it was his “sad duty” to ask support for the repeal bill, “in order to preserve our options going forward,” writes reporter Nathan Brown of the Twin Falls Times-News; you can read his full report here. The bill cleared the committee on a 12-3 vote, with just Reps. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian; and Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, dissenting. Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, teared up as she voted in favor of the bill, saying, “It’s a sad, sad day that as a legislator we have to … vote that will make it so that we have to allow for the destruction of innocent lives.”

The bill, HB 250, starts with a series of legislative findings stating that the Legislature disagrees with the court and still believes such procedures would be unsafe and that “women and girls are best served by an in-person examination,” but then says, “Notwithstanding the foregoing, and pursuant to the order continuing stay of enforcement entered by Judge B. Lynn Winmill, the Legislature enacts Sections 2 and 3 of this Act,” which repeal the 2015 bans.

Planned Parenthood Legislative Director Mistie Tolman told the Times-News after the vote that she supports the bill, though she disagrees with the “findings” portion. “This bill includes a long list of legislative findings neither based in science or medicine," she said, “but it does recognize that these newly adopted laws place unnecessary burdens on women seeking safe, legal abortion.”

Barbieri said he had concerns about the separation of powers and about whether the Legislature is getting proper legal representation, the Times-News reports.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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