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Wary of courts, Idaho lawmakers want abortion banned in the state constitution

The Idaho State Flag hanging inside the Statehouse Rotunda.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho lawmakers are calling on Gov. Brad Little to convene a special legislative session to ban access to abortion in the state constitution.

Rep. Ron Nate (R-Rexburg), who narrowly lost his re-election bid in May, urged his fellow legislators to sign on to a letter requesting a special session in a social media post.

Only the governor can convene a special legislative session under current law.

“Disturbing stories are coming from states like Utah and Louisiana about judges preventing their pro-life trigger laws from taking effect,” the letter to Little reads.

A regional arm of Planned Parenthood filed suit earlier this week seeking to block Idaho’s trigger law from taking effect.

That law, passed in 2020, would ban nearly all abortions with exceptions only for rape, incest and if the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.

“We must not allow our trigger law to go silent in Idaho,” according to the letter.

Amendments to the state constitution require two-thirds approval from both the House and the Senate. Successful proposals are then put to voters and only require a simple majority to enact.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa), chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, said he would not support a special session on the issue.

Despite his anti-abortion views, Crane said a constitutional amendment shouldn’t be considered by lame duck lawmakers who wouldn’t be “accountable” to voters after they leave office later this year.

A rash of retirements, new legislative maps pitting incumbents against one another and successful challenges to sitting lawmakers in May’s primary will lead to substantial turnover in Idaho’s legislative makeup.

Planned Parenthood has undertaken a litigation blitz campaign since Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its decision in Roe v. Wade. The 1973 case guaranteed access to some abortions nationwide.

In vacating nearly 50 years of legal precedent, the 6-3 majority returned regulatory power over abortions to individual states to the fanfare of conservative lawmakers and advocates across the country.

As the letter to Little outlines, judges in Louisiana and Utah temporarily blocked their respective states’ trigger bans on abortion on Monday.

On Thursday, a judge in Florida blocked its new law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The judge cited the state’s constitution guaranteeing a right to privacy.

Planned Parenthood made similar claims in its lawsuit in Idaho.

A spokesperson for Little didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the possibility of a special session.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Idaho Supreme Court had not yet set a date to hear oral arguments.

In court documents filed Wednesday, the state said the case should be thrown out since the law hasn’t yet taken effect.

If the court doesn’t toss the lawsuit, the state said it wouldn’t protest the abortion rights group’s request to speed up proceedings and hold oral arguments on Aug. 3.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!