BOISE, Idaho, April 7, 2011 ( – The state of Idaho has become the sixth U.S. state to fully opt out of abortion coverage under the new national health care reform law. The state is also waiting for the governor to sign into law a measure that would shorten the time frame where women can abort their unborn children, on the basis of fetal pain.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed into law a measure (SB 1115) that prohibits qualified health plans participating in the state’s health exchange from paying for elective abortions. The health exchanges, established by the health care reform law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), go into effect in 2014.

PPACA requires states ordinarily to have at least one policy covering abortion and one policy excluding abortion for health plans participating in the exchange. Since health insurance is employer-based in general, that could mean that pro-life individuals would find themselves paying for coverage to an insurance company that would subsidize another’s abortion.

However, PPACA does allow states to opt out and ban health insurance companies participating in the exchange from providing elective abortion.

Idaho’s opt-out law has exceptions for the life of the mother, if one consulting physician verifies the mother’s life is in grave danger, or in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest as determined by state courts.

Americans United for Life (AUL), which pioneered the model for opt-out legislation, praised Otter. 

“Protecting the American taxpayer from participation in the abortion industry is a bi-partisan effort,” Dr. Charmaine Yoest of AUL said. “Pro-life Americans everywhere are thankful for the efforts of the Idaho House and Senate and for the support of Gov. Otter who understands the importance of respecting life in our health care programs.”

Idaho follows five other states (Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, and Louisiana) in passing opt-out legislation. Other state legislatures are also taking up opt-out legislation in this year’s legislative session.

Otter is also expected to sign legislation recently passed by the Idaho House of Representatives, which bans abortion past 20 weeks on the basis that substantial medical evidence shows unborn babies feel pain acutely at that age.

The Idaho legislation (SB 1165) is modeled on a Nebraska law that has not been challenged in federal court.

Although state health data indicates that the law would save a relatively small number of unborn children from abortion (just 14 out of 1650 abortions in 2009 were over 20 weeks), pro-life leaders said the legislation would both help save some lives and keep national attention focused on the plight of the unborn child at whatever stage of his development.

“We want to use legislation in as many ways as possible to talk about the humanity of the unborn child,” Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for National Right to Life, told Reuters.

The abortion ban has no exception for rape and incest, and only permits it if the mother’s physical life is truly at stake. There was debate in the House over the lack of rape and incest exceptions, but pro-life lawmakers said the unborn child was also a victim of those crimes, but one who deserved to live.

“Is not the child of that rape or incest also a victim?” asked Rep. Shannon McMillan (R-Silverton), according to the Spokesman-Review. “It didn’t ask to be here. It was here under violent circumstances perhaps, but that was through no fault of its own.”

The House passed SB 1165 on a 54-14 vote. The bill allows abortionists who intentionally or recklessly violate the law to face criminal and civil penalties. The measure also sets up a litigation defense fund, which may accept private contributions, in order to defend the law if challenged in court.


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