GOP leaders double down on imprisoning doctors over emergency abortions

By Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise 
Reader Contributor

Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Similarly, when politicians vow to take away your freedoms, take them at their word. 

Among many extreme positions in the Idaho Republican Party platform is the criminalization of any abortion, even to save a patient’s life. We should therefore be unsurprised that Republican lawmakers are doubling down on their extreme, anti-abortion agenda. 

Recently, Republican Attorney General Raúl Labrador and Idaho’s Republican legislative leaders teamed up with out-of-state activists to file a frightening legal appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Their goal is to reverse a lower court-ordered reprieve for abortion care in medical emergencies. 

Rep. Lauren Necochea. File photo.

Idaho’s abortion ban has no allowance for patients facing health risks from carrying a pregnancy. Risk of permanent disability or fertility loss and even conditions that eventually cause death are not valid exceptions. This means physicians may have to prove in court — under threat of a lengthy prison sentence and loss of their medical license — that they performed an abortion to avert imminent death. Simply preserving the patient’s health is not acceptable. 

The U.S. Department of Justice successfully argued in court that this ban violates federal law enacted by former-President Ronald Reagan. The law requires hospitals with emergency departments to provide stabilizing treatment to anyone who seeks care. An Idaho judge agreed, ruling that pregnant women and those experiencing pregnancy loss deserve access to the full rights and protections of emergency medical care. 

How did Republican legislative leaders respond to this lifeline for patients and doctors? They immediately appealed the ruling. Now, they are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the prosecution and imprisonment of doctors and nurses who perform emergency abortions while the appeal works through the legal system. 

I know most Idahoans want to make their intimate medical decisions with their families and doctors — not have them dictated by politicians. But the new Idaho Republican Party continues to prove it is light-years away from what voters believe. 

This assault on your freedoms isn’t coming from a few far-right fringe legislators. The ban was deliberately written without health exceptions and approved by nearly every Republican legislator. In fact, a few Republicans voted in opposition because they didn’t think the bill went far enough. 

We should not be surprised that this new brand of Idaho Republican politician is sticking to the script. But we should be very alarmed by their extreme ideology and the lengths to which they will go. This is not the representation that Idahoans want. Patients’ lives and our ability to keep doctors in Idaho make it urgent that we vote them out.

Rep. Lauren Necochea is the House assistant Democratic leader, representing District 19 in Boise on the Commerce and Human Resources; Environment, Energy and Technology; Revenue and Taxation; and Ways and Means committees.

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