House Panel Forwards Reversal of Telemedicine Abortion Ban 

  • Kelsey Hawes
With minimal debate, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted Monday morning to forward a measure that unwinds two previous laws that put tight restrictions on telemedicine abortions. In 2015, the Idaho Legislature passed two bills that had banned Idaho women from receiving abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine. In effect, the laws had required doctors to be present when administering an abortifacient. But Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest challenged the law and, in January, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled the Idaho Legislature needed to eliminate the provision requiring a physician to be present; otherwise, Winmill said, both laws would be considered unconstitutional.

"We believe it's virtually impossible for the state to win in a trial courtroom or on appeal, no matter how many new justices are appointed to the Supreme Court or the federal bench," said David Ripley, executive director of Idaho Chooses Life. "We're asking that the lawsuit be declared moot before any greater damage is done."

Planned Parenthood Legislative Director Mistie Tolman stood before the State Affairs Committee to say her organization was in "partial support" of the new measure.

"But we object to the legislative findings that assert telemedicine abortion is substandard," she said. "It is as safe and effective as if the patient received care in-person."

Ultimately, the committee agreed House Bill 250 should move forward to the full House for its consideration, but not before pro-life legislators expressed their dismay.

"I want to qualify that I'm in favor of the bill, but it's a sad, sad day as a legislator when we have to vote for something to allow for the destruction of innocent lives," said Rep. Christy Zito (R-Hammett) while choking back some tears.

The telemedicine abortion bill was the only bill on the House State Affairs Committee agenda Monday morning, but attracted very little public testimony. Chairman Tom Loertscher (R-Iona) said he would personally carry the bill when it goes to the full House.

“These laws should have never been passed in the first place. These types of extreme bills are part of a coordinated effort to restrict women’s health care in the state of Idaho," said Tolman following Monday morning's vote. “As of today, the Idaho legislature is taking steps in the right direction. Women in Idaho deserve the right to have access to the safest, highest quality health care —these misguided laws do just the opposite by creating unnecessary hurdles to safe and legal abortion.”
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