The new term “murder by abortion,” featured in the platform of the Idaho Republican Party, is a radical departure from the consensus that has developed over the last forty years in our state. Idaho abortion laws have historically made exemptions for cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
These exemptions have been based on religious consensus, medical ethics, and the practical realities needed for the pre-born to remain healthy both prior to birth and afterwards. Some have said the new GOP platform is extremely pro-life, but in reality, it is anti-science and potentially harmful to unborn children.
First, the GOP Platform emerging from the Twin Falls convention is medically inaccurate as it seems to confuse fertilization with conception. In a medical sense, fertilization occurs when sperm meets egg, whereas conception is understood to occur when the fertilized egg implants itself in the lining of the uterus and thus becomes directly connected to the mother. Conception is thus regarded as the onset of pregnancy. Unfortunately, the new platform appears to use these terms interchangeably when they are actually separate and distinct.
In some cases (one or two percent), a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterine lining. This misplaced implantation is termed an ectopic pregnancy. It is life-threatening to the mother, and incompatible with fetal life as well. From a medical perspective, ectopic pregnancies should be terminated quickly to save the life of the mother.
It would be unimaginable for a physician to ignore an ectopic pregnancy. The new GOP platform suggests medical treatment of an ectopic pregnancy might be considered “justifiable murder”, but this inflammatory language is both inaccurate and unnecessary. Furthermore, it seems to ignore proper treatment of the mother, something vital if she plans to conceive and carry a healthy child in the future. Discarding best medical practices puts future children at risk, as well as creating immediate life-threatening harms for mothers whose pregnancies have failed to develop normally.
Second, immediate activation of law enforcement against the victims in cases of rape and incest is also potentially problematic. Where conception has occurred without the willful consent of the mother, there may be severe emotional and physical trauma that will have profound negative effects on pregnancy itself, the health and development of the unborn baby, to say nothing of the challenges to bonding between parent and child, and the mother’s own well-being.
For these complicated reasons, the consensus that developed among Idaho Republicans in the past was to allow family, close friends, counselors, and spiritual advisors to help a pregnant woman decide how to manage a pregnancy that resulted from a violent crime against her. Simply passing a law, in and of itself, will not create an attitude that values life. The purpose of laws is to prevent wrongdoing by prescribing known consequences and punishments. An “anti-abortion” law that targets the pregnant victim completely misses the “wrongdoer.”
What rape and incest victims need in cases of pregnancy is an overwhelming outpouring of love, compassion, and support. This is the best way to increase the probability their babies will do well over the long term. After all, if “passing a law” provided perfect answers, there would be no victims of crimes such as rape and incest in the first place.
Idaho’s historic consensus for rape and incest victims asks politicians and lawmakers to step back and allow the possibility of counsel and compassion from higher powers and trusted voices. This will be even more essential if the Biden Administration follows through with their commitment to keep nationwide access to “day-after” pills available by mail.
Valuing “life”, in this case, means accepting that where politics fail, love still works, and that the complexities of life are better served through deeply held principles rather than simplistic “solutions” imposed by a manipulative minority.
Trent Clark of Soda Springs chairs Idaho Families, Inc., and prepared this column in consultation with religious leaders and medical professionals in his community.
This Op-Ed was submitted by Trent Clark. Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.
Tags: Abortion, Idaho GOP, Platform, Pro-Life, Trent Clark