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Idaho Dems slam threat to abortion access after leaked SCOTUS draft

Boise Sen. Melissa Wintrow called a move to strip women and girls of their access to abortion "breathtaking in both its senselessness and its cruelty."

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Democratic lawmakers reacted with alarm and outrage to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court may be poised to overturn the right to abortion access for American women and girls. 

"The right to make personal medical decisions about our reproductive health care has stood in well-established law for 50 years. For nearly three generations, the law of the land has protected the right to privacy between a patient and their physician, keeping politicians out of the exam room. To dismantle this constitutional right to bodily autonomy goes against what the vast, vast majority of Americans want and expect," said House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel in a Tuesday morning statement. "In fact, support for upholding Roe v. Wade is broad, even in majority Republican states like Idaho."

A 2019 poll found that 65% of Idahoans support access to all reproductive healthcare options - including abortion - for women in the Gem State, Rubel said. Nationwide, that number rises to 80%. 

A  draft opinion leaked to Politico and released publicly Monday suggests the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, is poised to uphold a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks and overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion in the United States. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed Tuesday that the draft is authentic. 

If overturned, the ruling would trigger an Idaho abortion ban passed in the 2022 legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Brad Little in March. The Idaho law would outlaw abortions after about six weeks of gestation - before some women realize they are pregnant - and allows relatives to sue abortion providers for a minimum of $20,000  within four years after the abortion.

In a letter, Little wrote that although he was backing the bill, he believed that the enforcement mechanism "will in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise."

About 20 people gathered outside the Idaho Statehouse Tuesday to protest the potential ruling, hoisting signs bearing slogans like "Not Going Back," "Abortion is Healthcare," and "Hands Off My Uterus."  

Community activist Emily Walton told KTVB that she and the other demonstrators wanted to send the message that they would not agree to "going back 50 years in women's rights."

She expressed concerns over the effects of overturning legal abortions, pointing to situations in which a rape victim or a woman with a life-threatening complication of pregnancy would be forced to carry a fetus to full term. 

"You just can't put women in a position where they are forced to give birth by the state - that's just dangerous and terrible," she said. "Abortion is healthcare and until you are faced with that decision and understand what it would mean for your life, you don't really get to weigh in on other people's decisions."

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, warned in a statement that overturning Roe v. Wade " will have especially dangerous consequences for the women and girls living in states like Idaho." Survivors of rape or incest would see their protections stripped away under such a ruling, she added. 

"There are hundreds–likely thousands–of reasons an individual seeks out this safe, legal, medical procedure, but one thread unites them all: her choice. Dismantling national protection for this most essential component of bodily autonomy is breathtaking in both its senselessness and its cruelty. Americans know that. Idahoans know that," Wintrow said. "We respect and understand that individuals may have personally held religious beliefs. But those religious beliefs may not be imposed on their fellow citizens. Idaho Democrats will zealously fight for fundamental constitutional rights and protections from governmental overreach such as this."

Idaho is one of 13 states that have passed so-called "trigger laws" that would prompt abortion restrictions or bans if Roe v. Wade is overturned. It passed the Idaho House and Senate with no Democratic support. 

“The government has no business interfering in a personal medical decision between a woman and her doctor. No business," said Sen. James Ruchti. "That’s not how we do things in Idaho.”

REPUBLICANS RESPOND

In a statement released May 5, Idaho Republican Party Chairman Tom Luna said, "The brazen and deliberate leaking of a Supreme Court Opinion is both unprecedented and extremely alarming. The highest court in the land deserves to deliberate without fear of intimidation.  

"Although this opinion is only a draft, if it stands, it will validate the Republican Party and its Pro-Life allies in their decades-long struggle to prove that Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood were unconstitutional since the day they were penned. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito writes in his draft opinion, 'The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.'

"Overruling Roe and Casey will not mean the outright prohibition of abortions in the United States, instead, it will return the question of how to regulate abortion to its rightful place, the states..."

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, also in a written statement, said the unnamed person who released the draft opinion "should be investigated and held responsible.": 

"My thoughts on the issue have always been clear: the rights of infants, mothers, and healthcare providers who oppose abortion must be protected," he wrote. "I have long fought for pro-life legislation in Congress, and I will continue to do so, regardless of the destructive attempts to undermine and intimidate those who disagree."

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, called the leak of the draft opinion "a brazen attempt to intimidate Supreme Court justices into ignoring the rule of law." He later added that the Court "must remain independent" from political pressure when issuing its final decision.

In a post on Twitter, Crapo also said, "States should have the ability to protect the right to life and the rights of the unborn."

"the most basic right we as humans have is the right to life. Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and correcting that mistake is the right thing to do," Sen. Jim Risch wrote in a statement. "This leaked Supreme Court draft opinion is only a draft, and the contours of the ruling may change. No ruling is final until it is published by the Court." 

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