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Idaho lawmakers could restrict emergency contraceptives if Roe overturns

A photo inside the Idaho capitol building looking up at the dome with the Idaho state flag hanging in the foreground.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
The Idaho state flag hanging in the Capitol rotunda.

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Idaho lawmakers will have more to discuss about abortion, said Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa).

“It sets in motion a series of questions that have to be answered to provide certainty and predictability to the citizens of the state of Idaho,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Idaho lawmakers passed a trigger law in 2020 that would criminalize most abortions if the 1973 decision is overturned.

Crane said on Idaho Reports last week that, as chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, he would consider holding hearings on legislation to ban medication abortion and a certain emergency contraceptive.

He said he is concerned about the health effects of abortifacients – drugs that induce abortions. They’re widely considered to be safe and effective.

On Monday, he clarified on KTVB that he would not support holding hearings on legislation to ban IUDs, or intrauterine devices, a form of birth control.

“I believe a woman has the right with regards to contraceptive care and the choice of the contraceptives that they are going to use,” Crane said.

When asked Tuesday whether that includes emergency contraceptives, like Plan B, he said, “that's what we would have a hearing for, is to let the committee determine where they stand on that issue.”

Crane said he wouldn’t introduce the legislation himself, but reiterated that he would consider holding hearings regarding emergency contraception.

“Where the state of Idaho's policy is going to be regarding Plan B, I think is a decision that we're going to have to wrestle with,” he said.

That concerns some in the medical community like Dr. Rachel Chisausky, DO, who’s a second-year resident at Family Medicine Residency of Idaho.

“I think emergency contraception is absolutely a necessity, and I think it goes along with the goals of our state to have happy, healthy babies when people are ready for them,” she said.

Chisausky said emergency contraceptives work differently than abortion pills, but some anti-abortion advocates pair them together.

The Idaho Legislature put emergency contraceptives in the category of “abortion-related activities” in a 2021 law that bans public funds from supporting abortion.

“In terms of processes, they’re two completely different medications,” she said.

Pills like Plan B or Ella prevent or delay one of the hormonal surges that trigger ovulation, or the release of eggs. They can prevent, but do not stop, pregnancies.

On the other hand, medication abortion involves two pills. The second causes the uterus to expel the pregnancy.

Chisausky said the conflation likely has to do with cultural and religious beliefs about when pregnancy begins.

Another aspect is that the FDA label for Plan B says the drug may prevent fertilized eggs from attaching to the womb, though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says a review of the evidence shows it’s unlikely that emergency contraception prevents implantation of a fertilized egg.

Chisausky said, medically, there’s no confusion between contraceptives and abortion pills.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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