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Idaho GOP Lawmaker Aims to Remove Rape and Incest Exceptions to Abortion Law

Polling indicates that Idaho residents want abortion rights expanded, not further restricted.

The Idaho State Capitol is pictured in Boise, Idaho.

A new Republican-sponsored bill in Idaho would remove two exceptions that exist in the state’s already highly restrictive abortion law, a move that critics are lambasting as going in the wrong direction for the state.

Polling in this very conservative state indicates that most residents agree — the abortion law needs changes that would reduce restrictions on accessing the procedure.

Current abortion law in Idaho forbids abortion at any stage of a pregnancy. Exceptions are allowed to protect the life of a pregnant person and are granted in cases of rape or incest — however, the state requires anyone seeking those exceptions to provide documented proof of their attack from law enforcement. Critics say the requirement is cruel, given that many victims of sexual assault do not inform the police immediately after being harmed.

“Anyone who is pregnant in Idaho as a result of rape should be able to access resources and health care in their pursuit of healing and justice – they should not be treated as a criminal,” said ACLU of Idaho’s communication director Rebecca De León.

Even with the difficulties and deep restrictions that exist with the current law, Idaho Sen. Dan Foreman (R) wants to take things further. Last week, he introduced a bill that would remove the rape and incest exceptions altogether.

Critics are panning the bill as moving the law in the wrong direction.

“Even among states with a six- or 12-week ban, the fact that Idaho’s law leaves no exception for a woman’s health or fetal anomaly stands out,” wrote The Lewiston Tribune’s editorial board. “The dilemma is driving physicians out of the state. … Now Foreman wants to subject a physician who performs an abortion for a victim of rape and incest to a felony conviction, a prison sentence of two to five years and the loss of his license.”

“Why does Foreman, a former cop, have more sympathy for the rapist than the victim?” the board asked.

State Democratic lawmakers and abortion rights advocates also criticized the bill.

“We’ve already seen the impacts the current abortion ban has had on the state, and instead of working to make it better, those in power are trying to see how far they can take us backward,” said Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates communication manager Mack Smith.

“That the state would force a 12-year-old rape victim to carry a pregnancy is a shocking idea, and Sen. Foreman is clearly out of step with the values of the vast majority of Idahoans,” Rep. Lauren Necochea (D) said.

Recent polling indicates Foreman is right.

According to the Idaho Public Policy Survey, which was published this month, only 33.4 percent of residents in the state support keeping the abortion law as it is. Nearly six in 10 voters (57.9 percent) want abortion rights expanded to some degree — of that number, 24.3 percent want the state’s abortion law to include protecting the health, not just the life, of the pregnant person, and allow abortion as an option for nonviable pregnancies; 14.4 percent want abortion to be allowed until fetal viability (usually around 20-24 weeks of pregnancy); and 19.2 percent want no restrictions on abortion.

The poll did not ask respondents to weigh in on further restricting abortion in the state.

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