Marching in step with the GOP’s nationwide war on a woman’s right to choose, the Idaho legislature gave final approval to a bill that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. Modeled after Nebraska’s first-in-the-nation measure, the bill — like the one passed in Kansas last week — is based on highly disputed medical research alleging that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. Idaho’s bill, however, also fails to include exceptions for rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality or the mental or psychological health of the mother. “Only when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or physical health could a post-20-week abortion be performed.”
In 1990, Idaho’s anti-abortion Gov. Cecil Andrus (D) vetoed a similar bill expressly because it failed to provide a rape or incest exception. “The bill is drawn so narrowly that it would punitively and without compassion further harm an Idaho woman who may find herself in the horrible, unthinkable position of confronting a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest,” he said.
But this year during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, state Republican lawmakers found plenty of reasons to advocate for it. State Rep. Shannon McMillan (R) argued that women who were impregnated under “violent circumstances” should have no choice because it’s not the fetus’s fault. State Rep. Brent Crane, the bill’s sponsor, took it a step further. Believing that “tragic, horrific” acts of rape or incest are the “hand of the Almighty,” Crane said women should trust God to turn the consequences of their sexual assault into “wonderful examples”:
“Is not the child of that rape or incest also a victim?” asked Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton. “It didn’t ask to be here. It was here under violent circumstances perhaps, but that was through no fault of its own.”[…]
The Idaho bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told legislators that the “hand of the Almighty” was at work. “His ways are higher than our ways,” Crane said. “He has the ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples.”
Crane’s belief that good can come from such horrific circumstances may be one shared or embraced by a sexual assault victim. However, that interpretation, that belief, that choice should be made by the woman — not forced upon her by law. The right to choose is not about the “innocence” or “guilt” of the fetus — or of the woman for that matter. It is about a woman being able to decide whether she is willing and able to carry a pregnancy to term.
The bill does more than compel sexual assault victims to carry pregnancies to term, it makes it a felony to perform such an abortion and allows spouses and relatives to file legal injunctions against physicians who break the ban. The bill also sets up a fund that can accept donations to defend the bill — a needed provision since the Idaho attorney general has issued two legal opinions declaring the bill unconstitutional for violating the Roe v. Wade decision’s viability standard.
Despite the lack of constitutionality or compassion, the bill passed 54 to 14 with only one Republican joining all 13 Democrats in opposition. The bill now heads to Gov. Butch Otter (R) “who is expected to sign it.”