Twin Falls County Prosecutor speaks on Idaho abortion law

Emotions are still running high here in the Gem State, in the wake of the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision to allow the states abortions laws to go into effect.
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 6:21 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Emotions are still running high here in the Gem state, in the wake of the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision to allow the states abortions laws to go into effect. However, there are still some questions on the enforcement of the laws

Late Friday the Idaho Supreme Court issued a ruling that allowed three Idaho abortions laws to go into effect. A 2020 law criminalizes nearly all abortions in the state. Another law issued in 2021 bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. In 2022 the fetal heartbeat bill was amended to add a private enforcement mechanism, that allows individuals to sue medical professionals who perform unlawful abortions

Some are hailing the court’s decision.

“This is an exciting day for Idahoans who care about the constitutional right of preborn children and are correcting a long train of abuses,” said Blaine Conzatti, President of the Idaho Family Policy Center.

However, others feel the decision is an attack on women’s rights.

“Agh disgusted. I feel like women are second class citizens now,” said Jill Skeem, Twin Falls County Resident. " I don’t think it is the place of the government to make a decision like that for a woman or her family.”

Regardless of the court’s decision, and people’s emotions, Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said the 2020 abortion law has some issues.

“The loopholes are huge. The exceptions are vague, the procedure is really untested at this point,” Loebs said.

Additionally, he believes the law was written at time when lawmakers didn’t think it would ever become law, because it required Roe v. Wade being overturned. Now that it is law, he thinks it needs to be re-written with more clarity.

“As it is written now it would be difficult to find a case where you could prosecute a criminal abortion,” Loebs said.

Sen. Melissa Wintrow agrees that the language in the 2020 abortion law is vague, and she believes it was done intentionally to instill fear in individuals and medical professionals.

“A lot of these when I’m in session we see a lot of bills hitting committees that are more about political theory, political theater, and their primary races, than what are the logistics of the law,” Wintrow said.

She also believes one of the abortion bills goes too far. The 2022 civil liability abortion law would allow abortion providers/medical professionals to be sued for up to $20,000 within four years of an abortion by family members of the aborted fetus. Wintrow feels the law opens up the door for family of a rapist to sue, and put women through more trauma.

“Now the government is going to act as an accessory to a rapist, and allow them to continue the trauma and raises my blood pressure,”Wintrow said.

However, Loebs doesn’t anticipate prosecutors’ being flooded with criminal abortion cases.

“Because who is going to make those reports. If you think about who is going to know an abortion is illegal and who is going to make a report to the police. Is it going to be the mother, the father, the grandparents, and how are they going to get the information that it is illegal and not covered by one of the exceptions in the statute,” Loebs said.

Wintrow said she feels this is just the tip of the iceberg. She and other lawmakers are worried more abortions laws will be introduced next legislative session, to strengthen and support the existing laws.

“It’s clear to me that the legislature is just going to be a showdown for people just trying to be each other up to be more extreme,” said Sen. Melissa Wintrow.

Conzattie who has worked with Republican lawmakers in the past on abortion legislation said one thing lawmakers should do is make it illegal for companies in Idaho to furnish out of state abortions for their employees.

“The state pf Idaho has to make sure that does not happen. Texas has already passed a law that prevents the furnishing of out of state abortions. We need to follow suit,” Conzatti said.

With rumblings circling around the county and here in Idaho about abortion travel bans, Loebs doesn’t feel it would be wise for Idaho lawmakers to craft future legislation that would restrict women from traveling to states to get an abortion.

“I think it would be very difficult to ascertain in every case the reasons for travel. I think if you go down that road you are going to have a tough time drafting sensible legislation,” Loebs said.

In closing Skeem thinks it might be time for citizens to make matters into their own hands and start a ballot initiative to have the abortion laws overturned, or have lawmakers allow voters to rule on it. She uses Kansas as an example. Kansas voters rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have stripped the right to an abortion.

“why don’t they bring it to the voters of Idaho if they want to know how people feel about it. I think the majority of the people which they have found across this country are for choice,” Skeem said

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