BOISE — A bill to ban any public money from going to any organizations that provide abortions was introduced into the Legislature on Thursday.
Sponsored by Reps. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, and Christy Zito, R-Hammett, the bill contains an exception for health care providers who perform abortions in cases or rape or incest or where the mother’s life is in danger.
Federal funding for abortion has long been restricted under the Hyde Amendment, and as a result Medicaid will only pay for abortions in limited cases. However, health care providers that perform abortions for other reasons can and do receive Medicaid dollars to provide other health care services. Zollinger’s proposal would go further in that any organization that performs abortions would be, with the limited exceptions in the bill, ineligible for state and local funds for any purpose, not just for performing abortions specifically. Even if an organization doesn’t spend the state money it receives on abortion specifically, Zollinger said, the money still helps support the organization’s operations.
“If they want state (or) local money, they have to make the choice,” Zollinger told the House State Affairs Committee. “We’re not going to provide these services or we’re going to accept money from private sources.”
Zollinger said in an interview he is working on gathering more information on abortion providers in Idaho and how much government money they receive. He said the bill would apply to Medicaid reimbursements, so even if a health care provider that performs abortions is eligible for federal Medicaid money the intent of his bill is that the state’s share would be held back.
No public money pays for abortion in Idaho now, said Mistie Tolman, Idaho legislative director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. She said the bill “is meant to single out abortion providers and make it nearly impossible to provide care.”
“Stripping public funding from providers like Planned Parenthood only works to deter pregnancy prevention efforts such as public education and access to contraceptives, as well as important reproductive health care,” Tolman said. “This is a clear and direct attack on Planned Parenthood, and we are prepared to fight this unfair and cruel legislation that ultimately only hurts Idahoans who come to us seeking quality reproductive health care.”
In a Jan. 30 legal opinion, Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane suggested a handful of changes to the bill that would make it legally defensible, which Zollinger made, and said courts have upheld bills with similar intentions as Zollinger’s, pointing to the 2019 Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Hodges case, which upheld a state ban on public funding for most abortions.
However, Kane wrote an abortion provider who also provides non-abortion related services could challenge the bill in court under some arguments raised but not decided in the Hodges case. Kane wrote the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals “could likely find in favor of those who challenge the legislation under its previous history when deciding other cases in the area of abortion,” and he cites the 2012 case Planned Parenthood Arizona, Inc., v. Betlach in his analysis.
The committee voted to introduce the bill with the Republicans in favor and the Democrats opposed, clearing the way for a hearing later.