Discussion of pro abortion topics in public institutions banned; the State of Idaho sued

Taya Power-Thornton | The Arbiter

It’s been over a year since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Thirteen states had what are known as “trigger laws” go into effect. These are laws that would, if Roe were to be overturned, make abortion illegal in the state.

There are currently 21 states with bans on abortion, ranging from 18 weeks to a full ban. Idaho currently has a full abortion ban in place. This law went into effect Aug. 25, 2022.

In addition to abortion bans, Idaho also implemented a law called the No Public Funds for Abortions Act

The act makes it illegal for any institution that receives public funds to “provide, perform, or induce an abortion; assist in the provision or performance of an abortion; promote abortion; counsel in favor of abortion; refer for abortion; or provide facilities for an abortion or for training to provide or perform an abortion,” according to the act.

According to the law, violators could face a punishment anywhere between a misdemeanor and fine to up to 14 years in state prison.

This new law has raised legal concerns from university professors in the State of Idaho. Teachers from Boise State University, Idaho State University and University of Idaho have partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to sue the State.

The key argument of the lawsuit, Idaho Federation of Teachers v. Labrador, is that the No Public Funds for Abortion Act “violates the First Amendment by restricting the academic speech of faculty at Idaho’s public universities” as stated in the case summary from the ACLU.

“This case is a challenge to the No Public Funds for Abortion Act, and more specifically to the provisions of the Act that prohibits speech that promotes or councils in favor of abortion,” said Scarlet Kim, a senior staff attorney at the speech privacy and technology project at the ACLU.

The main concern is that the act focuses solely on discussion that might be viewed as positive or in favor of abortion.

“This is a viewpoint discriminatory statute …The point is that if professors only wanted to teach viewpoints that were anti-abortion, they could do so, they just cannot teach viewpoints favorable to abortion. That’s the crux of the statute,” Kim said. 

While the case is a first amendment case, this law impacts more than just a teacher’s ability to teach what they might want to teach. This law would impact anyone who receives public funds who is involved in anything that would be considered pro-abortion. For example, this would include medical practitioners and social workers.

In addition to the teachers who are being impacted by this legislation, students have also raised concerns.

“Anything that limits free speech is a danger whether I like it or not,” said Natalie Fleming, a student at Boise State studying technology management and cybersecurity. 

This extended into concerns of the potential removal of open debates within classrooms on campus.

“I think anything that gets in the way of classroom debates, free debates, is a risk,” said Julia Swârt, a non-traditional senior at Boise State.

Currently, the plaintiffs in the case have filed what is called a motion for preliminary injunction. This motion requests the court to put a stay on enforcement of the law until the court reaches a decision.

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