This year’s attempt at a bill that purportedly provides health care professionals with the “freedom of conscience” to deny making certain medications and services available, but which critics say is an attack against birth control for women, has been modified to more explicitly call out Plan B emergency contraception.
“”Abortifacient” means any drug that causes an abortion as defined in 18604, Idaho Code, emergency contraception or any drug the primary purpose of which is to cause the destruction of an embryo or fetus,” the text of the new bill says, which, ironically, was submitted last Friday, the last business day before Valentine’s Day.
“This one doesn’t even dance around the issue,” said Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, in a statement. “It specifically names emergency contraception as its target by falsely claiming that emergency contraception is abortion,” going on to cite Idaho code noting that emergency contraception is not an abortifacient.
Idaho code 18-604 says: “”Abortion” means the use of any means to intentionally terminate the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman with knowledge that the termination by those means will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of the unborn child except that, for the purposes of this chapter, abortion shall not mean the use of an intrauterine device or birth control pill to inhibit or prevent ovulations, fertilization or the implantation of a fertilized ovum within the uterus.” Plan B emergency contraception involves using a higher than normal dose of birth control pills to inhibit the implantation of a fertilized ovum.
Other changes from the original bill include definitions of “embryo” and “fetus,” more detail on how the conscience beliefs should be defined consistently with Title VII of the federal civil rights act of 1964, a requirement that the written notice of the conscience provision must be provided in advance, and specifying that it would be unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees who used the conscience provision.
In addition, in the event of a “lifethreatening emergency, where no other health care professional capable of treating the emergency is available,” the employee using the conscience provision is now required “to provide treatment and care until an alternate health care professional capable of treating the emergency is found.” While this addition does somewhat address the referral issue brought up with both last year’s bill and the earlier bill this year, it covers only “lifethreatening emergencies,” and not time-critical prescriptions, such as emergency contraception, which must be taken within 120 hours of an act of unprotected intercourse to be effective.
As with the previous version of the bill, it does not include a requirement for a referral within the facility or to another facility — which is a factor in rural areas that may have only one pharmacy or health care facility. In addition, it does not specifically protect routine birth control, some kinds of which act by preventing implantation of a fertilized embryo in the uterine wall—which could be defined as an ‘abortifacient.’
The bill, sponsored by Senator Chuck Winder, R-Eagle, has the same sponsors as the previous bill this year, including Representative James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, who did not sponsor last year’s bill. It again has no female sponsors, and the only woman on the committee, Senator Kate Kelly, D-Boise, voted against it. The bill also continues to be assigned to the State Affairs committee, after it was stalled in the Senate Health and Welfare committee last year, headed by a woman, Senator Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston.