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Eye On Boise

Bill repealing ban on telemedicine abortion passes House, heads to Senate

Legislation to repeal two laws forbidding abortion-inducing drugs from being prescribed via telemedicine – after a court found the 2015 laws unconstitutional – passed the House today on a 52-18 vote. “Mr. Speaker, this may be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in this place,” Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, the bill’s sponsor, said as he opened the debate. “Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a very difficult situation.”

Under a court settlement, a federal judge is awaiting action by the Legislature to repeal the laws; if it doesn’t act, he’ll declare both laws unconstitutional in a precedent-setting decision. The anti-abortion groups that pushed the bills in the first place now want them repealed to bolster their legal position for future litigation, including in other states. When the bills first passed in 2015, the groups said they wanted to prohibit "web-cam abortions," though none had occurred in Idaho. You can read my full story here at

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said, “I stand here now to explain for the record my ‘no’ vote. My pro-life world view is no secret to this body.” Barbieri said he remains concerned that “100 percent of the babies, those beating hearts dependent on the protection of the womb, do not survive this chemical assault,” and said he believes there should be more check on the power of courts. “Though my countenance is calm and my words are measured, in my heart I am wildly gesticulating, I am passionately pleading, indeed crying crocodile tears over the devastation, the destruction, the blood and the death that is the abortion industry.”

Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, broke down as she said she’d vote yes. “It’s totally because we will be able to live to fight another day and there are no words to express,” she said, breaking off.

Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, who voted against the bill, noted that many in the body voted against the measures in 2015 and believe they are unconstitutional; she noted that today’s vote was taking place on International Women’s Day.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, urged a “no” vote. “If this were a gun issue, we would be standing up as a sovereign state and saying no, not in our state,” she said. “But this isn’t a gun issue, this is a baby issue, so we draw the line here, and acquiesce to this because it’s not a gun issue. ... You can stand up in a sovereign state and say no. Idaho legislators write law, not court rulings.”

Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, said, “We were not represented, the legislative branch was not represented the way it should have been. … I’m gonna call a spade a shovel here, that’s just exactly what happened, and it shouldn’t have happened, it didn’t have to happen, but it did. So now what we’ve gotta do is work smarter not harder. We’ve gotta vote for this so we can address this issue successfully somewhere down the line.”

The 18 “no” votes came from Reps. Barbieri, Chew, Erpelding, Gannon, Hanks, Holtzclaw, Jordan, King, Kloc, McCrostie, Nate, Rubel, Scott, Shepherd, Smith, Toone, Wintrow and Zollinger. HB 250 now moves to the Senate site.

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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