In the face of overwhelming public opposition, a committee of Idaho legislators voted Monday to hold a bill that sought to replace the words “embryo” and “fetus” with “preborn child” throughout Idaho law, which prevented the bill from advancing.
“Every time that we do this, it is from fertilization to birth,” Young said Monday during the bill’s public hearing at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. “The term ‘preborn child’ clearly captures that full span and is more accurate and, I believe, also more clearly expresses the respect and value that the state of Idaho places on the lives of these preborn children.”
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But members of the public, including several medical professionals and parents, urged legislators on Monday to reject the bill, saying the bill called for replacing medically accurate terms in state law like “embryo” and “fetus” with the nonmedical term “preborn child” or “child.”
“Medical definitions are precise definitions,” Grace Christensen, an Idaho State University student, told legislators via remote testimony from Pocatello on Monday. “The term ‘preborn child’ has a different cultural connotation that can have legal consequences.”
Idahoans testify ‘preborn child’ legislation could have unintended consequences
Several people who testified told legislators they were concerned that passing the bill into law defining an embryo or fetus as a preborn child could open the door to wrongful death lawsuits or manslaughter charges for women who experience miscarriages or medical providers who discard non-viable embryos.
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“There are many reasons to oppose this bill, but I am speaking to what I feel is the most important – the potential criminalization of pregnancy,” Dr. Martha Lund, an obstetrician-gynecologist, told legislators. “By changing language from ‘fetus’ to ‘preborn child,’ presumably this will mean that the rights of a child will be incurred upon the fetus.”
“However, if this law passes, any time a mother miscarries she can potentially be charged with a crime such as manslaughter or abuse of a corpse,” Lund said. “Women who are already grieving will also be worried they could be accused of causing this horrible situation. “
At the end of Monday’s meeting, members of the House State Affairs Committee voted to hold the bill in committee subject to the call of the committee’s chairman, Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa. That prevented the bill from moving forward to the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives for a vote. Because committee chairs have wide latitude and powers, Crane could potentially bring the bill back in front of the House State Affairs Committee before the Idaho Legislature adjourns for the year. The Idaho Legislature’s nonbinding target to adjourn for the year is March 22.
Under Idaho’s abortion ban in state law, abortion is illegal at every stage of pregnancy in almost all cases, with the only exceptions being to save the life of the mother or if a rape victim provides a copy of a police report to the physician and seeks an abortion within the first trimester.