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Gov. Little gives post-legislative session breakdown

Idaho Governor Brad Little speaking to State Representative James Petzke
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Gov. Brad Little, left, talks about abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court and gives his breakdown of the 2024 Idaho legislative session.

In a post legislative press conference with reporters Thursday, Gov. Brad Little said “it would be nice” to have clarity on Idaho’s strict abortion laws that healthcare organizations accuse of causing doctors to flee the state.

As previously reported by Boise State Public Radio, a recent study found 22% of Idaho’s OBGYNs have left the state since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its precedent in Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Late last month, the state argued at the U.S. Supreme Court that its law allowing abortions only when the mother’s life is at risk should not be superseded by federal code.

That federal law, known as EMTALA, requires hospitals receiving Medicaid or Medicare dollars to treat and stabilize patients whose health is at risk.

That includes abortions in some cases, according to federal officials.

“With the least amount of doctors per capita of any state, we don’t need excuses for doctors to leave the state, but we need to get this case settled and then we can go forward,” Little said.

The governor added that he hasn’t personally spoken with doctors about the issue, but that it would be “logical” for there to be a connection between the law and providers leaving Idaho. Justices are expected to rule on the case this summer.

Meanwhile, St. Luke’s Health System said it airlifted six patients out of state to get emergency abortions in the first quarter of this year – something Attorney General Raúl Labrador called a “political statement.”

Little still isn’t ruling out the possibility of a special legislative session to more narrowly tailor a new law passed earlier this year dealing with Idaho’s Medicaid program.

It blocks the Department of Health and Welfare from expanding access to Medicaid or increasing costs without prior approval.

In a letter explaining his decision to sign the bill into law, Little said he was concerned that it could halt more than $100 million in payments to providers and stop the state from saving taxpayers money in certain cases.

Still, he said he had assurances from legislative leaders that a fix would be passed before they gaveled out for the year, but it never materialized.

Little said the administration is working to get a legal opinion on the issue.

“I told the legislature if we don’t get that comfort level, they might be having to come back,” he said.

Another new law taking effect July 1 would prohibit schools from disciplining teachers and students alike if they refuse to use a transgender person’s preferred name or pronouns.

But Little said he doesn’t expect that to increase bullying.

“I have trust in school administrators, for the most part, that they’re going to be sensitive to some of these students.”

Public employees or students who are disciplined for doing so could sue in civil court under the law.

Little did cheer the passage of ongoing funding for his signature tuition program, Idaho Launch, for graduating high school seniors, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in one-time money for road and bridge maintenance.

Copyright 2024 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.

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