Idaho Republican legislators wouldn’t fix abortion law. It’s up to the Supreme Court | Opinion

Idaho’s medical community has been saying for the past two years — since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — that Idaho’s strict abortion ban is jeopardizing medical care when the health of the mother is at risk.

Idaho’s abortion laws take into account only risks to the life of the mother.

The laws are the subject of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments Wednesday.

From the sounds of it, it’s not going all that well for Idaho’s lawyers.

Even Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the final piece in the far right’s fight to overturn Roe v. Wade, said Wednesday that she was shocked by Idaho lawyer Josh Turner’s arguments.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned Turner about a real-life example of a woman in another state with a condition called preterm premature rupture of membranes, in which a patient’s water breaks before her fetus is able to survive outside of the womb. The woman was forced to carry the fetus to term. The fetus died, and the woman had to have a hysterectomy. Sotomayor asked whether that would be covered under Idaho’s law.

“It is very case by case,” Turner responded.

“That’s the problem,” Sotomayor said.

“I’m kind of shocked, actually,” Barrett said. “Because I thought your own expert had said below that these kinds of cases were covered, and you’re now saying they’re not?”

After Turner tried to explain, Barrett interrupted him.

“You’re hedging,” she said. “I mean, Justice Sotomayor is asking you would this be covered or not? And it was my understanding that the (Idaho) Legislature’s witnesses said that these would be covered.”

“Yeah, those doctors said if they were exercising their medical judgment, they could in good faith determine that life-saving care was necessary,” Turner responded. “And that’s my point is it’s a subjective — .”

“But some doctors couldn’t,” Barrett interrupted again. “Some doctors might reach a contrary conclusion, I think is what Justice Sotomayor is asking you.”

It’s worth noting that the lawyer representing the federal government, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, is a Boise High graduate and is doing a phenomenal job.

Barrett’s line of questioning touched on the nonsense we’ve been hearing the past few months from Idaho’s Republican legislators, who have been cavalierly dismissing concerns about Idaho’s abortion laws. They’ve been claiming that Idaho’s laws don’t prevent doctors from providing care meant to preserve a patient’s health.

But we’ve been hearing horror stories of women having to carry nonviable fetuses, or continue pregnancy even if it means long-term health effects and eliminating the ability to become pregnant ever again.

As the Idaho Statesman’s Nicole Blanchard reported Monday, St. Luke’s hospital has transported six patients out of state this year for pregnancy complications, and the Idaho Capital Sun reported they were airlifted out of state. Some Idaho doctors are advising pregnant patients to carry insurance for air ambulance transports, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Think about that. Idaho has to airlift at-risk patients out of state to provide medical care, as if the state were some sort of war zone in an undeveloped country.

Imagine being an expectant mother having to endure the pain and suffering of having a nonviable pregnancy, and then having to be flown by helicopter to another state just to get the medical care you desperately need.

Doctors are fleeing the state because Idaho’s laws interfere with their ability to provide necessary medical care to their patients, and hospitals say they are having trouble recruiting doctors because of Idaho’s abortion ban.

But Idaho’s arrogant — and often ignorant — Republican legislators just aren’t listening.

“I don’t know that the doctors are leaving because of that,” House Speaker Mike Moyle said. “It might be a convenient excuse.”

Doctors and patients aren’t making this stuff up, and they’re not just looking for “a convenient excuse.”

“This is not theoretical,” Dr. Becky Uranga told the Statesman. “This is actually happening.”

Uranga said two Idaho patients had the same condition of ruptured membranes as described by Sotomayor. One patient sought an abortion in Oregon and delivered her baby while en route to Portland. The other patient did not want to leave the state for an abortion.

This is a real problem, with real consequences.

But Idaho’s Republican legislators have been way too cavalier and high-handed about this problem, burying their heads in the sand and refusing to fix it.

Based on what we heard at the Supreme Court, maybe enough justices will know they need to fix it for them — and for all of us.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are opinion editor Scott McIntosh, opinion writer Bryan Clark, editor Chadd Cripe, newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser and community members Mary Rohlfing and Patricia Nilsson.