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Eye On Boise

Senate passes telemedicine abortion ban repeal 28-7, rejecting Foreman’s pitch to ‘make a stand and show everybody’

Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, argues in favor of HB 250, the bill repealing an invalidated anti-abortion law, in the Idaho Senate on Monday, March 20, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)
Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, argues in favor of HB 250, the bill repealing an invalidated anti-abortion law, in the Idaho Senate on Monday, March 20, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)

The Senate has voted 28-7 in favor of HB 250, the bill to repeal Idaho’s invalidated law banning abortion-causing drugs from being prescribed via telemedicine.

Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, recounted the history of the legal case. “I do not want my statements to reflect negatively on the Attorney General’s office,” he said. “I believe they … have done what they could to help protect the state.” He said the bill allows the state to “moot the lawsuit before additional attorney fees are incurred.”

“Very important, fellow senators, I believe that by repealing, we moot the lawsuit,” Martin said. “We end the lawsuit as if there was no lawsuit. Very importantly, it sets no precedence.”

Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, spoke “in strong opposition” to the bill. “I understand where we’re at, we’re looking down the barrel of a lawsuit we may likely lose. So the question is what do we do with HB 250,” he said. “The way I see it, we have two choices. We can pass the bill, avoid the legal expenses. … The other option is to vote down the bill and take a stand on principle. … This issue is not about health care, it’s about legislative authority. In making a stand today and voting down this bill, we send a clear message the Idaho Legislature will not be intimidated in its role in making good law. It’s our job to make the law in Idaho. It’s not the job of the plaintiff in a lawsuit. I understand it may cost money. .. Sure, it’s going to cost money. But it’s money well spent.” He urged the Senate, “Let’s make a stand today and show everybody.”

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said lawmakers face a “Hobson’s choice,” and a “difficult thing,” but he’d support the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, told the Senate, “HB 250 is a difficult vote for probably all of us in this body.” He said he thought the bill, when it passed, had gotten a clean bill of health from the Attorney General’s office as far as constitutionality, but the state of the law was more in flux than lawmakers anticipated. “We are being asked to pull back based on what we understand the courts have told us the law to be at this time,” he said. “I’ll be supporting the bill, not because I want to, not because I’m excited about, not because I think that there still isn’t value in some of the policy decisions that we have made, but because those are the facts that I have in front of me.”

Several Democratic senators were critical of a long list of “legislative findings” in the bill written by anti-abortion lobbyist David Ripley, calling the inclusion of the statements inappropriate, with some citing it as their reason for voting against the measure.

Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked for 60 seconds to explain his vote, but just stood silent for most of it. “It’s a moment of silence,” he said. “We might be ending the lawsuit … but how many yet to be born lives are we also ending? This senator votes no.”

Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, also requested 60 seconds to explain her vote. “This is a very difficult decision for me because I want to vote no, but I’m going to vote yes,” she said, “and I hope that we as a body who care about life will come back next year and we will set aside the nibbling around the edges of this issue and do some really important work to protect the lives of the innocent. This is just crazy.”

The seven “no” votes came from Sens. Buckner-Webb, Foreman, Jordan, Nonini, Nye, Stennett and Ward-Engelking.

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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