More than a month after Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus vetoed legislation banning abortion as a means of birth control, prolifers are still arguing about the long-range implications of his action. Many activists consider the veto a setback and have targeted Andrus for political defeat at the polls in November. Some prolifers, however, are pleased the law did not go into effect.
The measure effectively prohibited all abortions except in cases of rape reported within seven days, incest if the victim is under 18, profound fetal deformities, or serious threats to the mother’s life or health. It also would have banned all abortions after fetal viability except when the mother’s life was in danger. Andrus, who consulted with legal scholars, said he felt the bill would have been struck down by the Supreme Court.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), which helped draft the measure, called the veto a “betrayal” by Andrus, who is on record as opposed to abortion. “He has bowed to the hollow threats and pressure tactics of proabortion extremists who insist abortion be available as a method of birth control,” said NRLC president John Willke.
Americans United for Life staff counsel Paige Cunningham expressed disappointment, saying she considered the bill “a reasonable approach.” However, Richard Wilkins, a Brigham Young University law professor, believes submitting a bill likely to be rejected by the Court could be devastating for the prolife movement. “Until we get a change of personnel on the Court, we’d better be careful that legislation we send to the Court stands a reasonable chance of standing scrutiny under Justice [Sandra Day] O’Connor’s ‘not unduly burdensome’ test [for appropriate abortion regulation],” he said.
According to Wilkins, who litigated Justice Department cases before the Supreme Court for four years, “If the first statute the Court looks at is seen as going way beyond the discretion [it] meant to confer on the states in Webster, … the Court may backlash.”
Prolife groups that oppose abortion for any reason are also pleased the law did not go through because they viewed it as sanctioning abortions in certain cases. “NRLC’s ‘model’ … is a direct attempt by ‘pro-life’ forces to initiate compromise legislation,” reported Life-letter, the newsletter of the Ad-Hoc Committee in Defense of Life.
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