The House State Affairs Committee on Monday (03.06.17) took the unprecedented step of approving a bill to repeal part of a law approved in 2015 regulating chemical abortions in Idaho.
HB250 was brought forward by Idaho Chooses Life as a tactical response to the disastrous lawsuit still pending before federal Judge Lynn Winmill. After telling the Legislature in 2015 that it did not perform telemed abortions – and had no intention of giving out RU-486 after a “doctor” talks with a woman over an internet connection – Planned Parenthood sued the state in December of 2015. It claimed a “constitutional crisis” and demanded that Winmill issue a temporary restraining order to protect their “constitutional right” to kill more babies with greater economic efficiency.
The Attorney General’s office decided not to fight Planned Parenthood. Instead, it signed an agreement in the spring of 2016 saying it would not enforce Idaho law against the abortion chain.
So, effectively, webcam abortions became legal in Idaho last year. Planned Parenthood has been using the dangerous procedure at its Twin Falls facility for almost a year now.
We protested the move, but were told that it was part of a “larger strategy” to ultimately win the lawsuit. The state needed more time to organize its defense. Not to worry.
Well, by last December, it became abundantly clear that there is plenty to be outraged about. The Attorney General’s office signed a document, largely prepared by Planned Parenthood, called a “Stipulation of Facts” in the lawsuit. It is a twenty page document outlining the evidence developed by the parties – and the basis for any ruling by Judge Winmill on whether Idaho’s ban on webcam abortions is constitutional.
Our attorneys reviewed the document, after it was signed and entered into the court record, and came to the painful conclusion that there was no way the state could win the lawsuit. There is not a single piece of evidence before the court defending the Legislature’s decision to outlaw webcam abortions.
The Attorney General’s office apparently ignored the committee records developed through lengthy hearings in the 2015 Session. None of the expert testimony we presented was used in federal court. None of the research papers and studies we presented to the Legislature were given to Judge Winmill.
In lobbying the 2015 bill, we showed the Legislature that webcam abortions are dangerous and a disservice to women and girls choosing to undergo a chemical abortion. Women using RU-486 have died as a result of hemorrhaging, or undetected ectopic pregnancies and infection.
But none of that information was presented to the federal district court.
So not only can the state now not win in Winmill’s court – there is no record by which an appeal could be successful.
Given this disgraceful state of the case, we are asking the Legislature to amend the law in order to moot the lawsuit. This reduces the amount of money that state will have to pay Planned Parenthood in attorneys’ fees. More importantly, it stops Winmill from issuing a final ruling declaring our law to be “unconstitutional”.
That means Planned Parenthood can’t take his ruling to attack pro-Life laws in other states. And it means that we will have an easier time coming back to the Legislature to get these protections restored. It also means that we have protected the rest of the chemical abortion regulations approved in 2015 from Judge Winmill’s lethal overreach.
Make no mistake: This turn of events is tragic. We spent some three years getting those protections into Idaho Code. A number of legislators did a lot of heavy lifting to restrict the use of RU-486 in the state. Much more importantly, the legalization of substandard medical care for women and girls undergoing chemical abortions is going to lead to higher abortion rates in Idaho and greater health problems for women.
But our only rational course at this point is to minimize the damage being wrecked by this lawsuit.