Gov. Little has signed bills he knows are fatally flawed. He shouldn’t do it again | Opinion

Gov. Brad Little made a terrible mistake just over a year ago.

On March 23, 2022, he signed Senate bills 1309 and 1358, the total abortion ban and the abortion bounty law.

The laws were horribly flawed.

The abortion bounty law was an end-run around the Constitution (the U.S. Supreme Court would not overturn Roe v. Wade for several more months). The idea was to make abortion clinics impossible to insure against legal liability, since they could face a raft of lawsuits with statutory damages (which are written into law and don’t have to be proven) any time they performed an abortion. The idea was that nobody would have standing to launch a constitutional challenge.

Little is a policy wonk, so he knew all this.

“I fear the novel civil enforcement mechanism will in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise,” he wrote. “Deputizing citizens to levy hefty monetary fines on the exercise of a disfavored but judicially recognized constitutional right for the purpose of evading court review undermines our constitutional form of government and weakens our collective liberties.”

“How long before California, New York and other states hostile to the First and Second Amendment to target our religious freedom and right to bear arms?” Little asked.

He was right about that too.

The total abortion ban not only banned abortion in cases where it was necessary to prevent serious health complications — for example, leaving a mother disabled or unable to ever have children again — but also implemented exceptions for rape and incest that were in practice almost entirely inaccessible.

Little knew all this, as well.

“I appreciate the exception provided for victims of rape and incest, but the challenges and delays inherent in obtaining the requisite police report render the exception meaningless for many. I am particularly concerned for those vulnerable women and children who lack the capacity or familial support to report incest and sexual assault,” he wrote.

And all that was correct, which is why a bill to partially fix these problems was recommended for passage Thursday by the Senate State Affairs Committee — though doctors told the committee the solution remains insufficient for OB/GYNs to feel safe from criminal prosecution for treating pregnancy complications, so open positions are impossible to fill. Sooner or later, this will mean more women and babies will die.

But knowing all that, Little signed both bills. He did the wrong thing, knowing it was the wrong thing.

Little faces basically the same issue right now.

He has before him House Bill 71, which would make providing gender-affirming care to transgender kids — even puberty blockers which give them more time to make a decision — a felony. It takes a private matter between a child, parents and their doctors and puts the police, prosecutors and prisons right in the middle of it, where they have no business being.

He will soon have on his desk House Bill 314, which would use the same bounty system to ensure that libraries have to remove books that discuss the lives of gay and transgender people. An enterprising parent can send their kid looking for books they don’t like and collect $2,500 for each one they find. In some cases, it provides that some books will be destroyed. It seems that lawmakers were unsatisfied with the metaphor of book burning and wanted to make it literal.

The flaws are as obvious as they were last go-round. The question is whether Little has more courage this year.

Gov. Little, don’t sign another piece of legislation you know is fatally flawed. You did it once, and every bad thing you predicted would happen came to pass.

So, this time, don’t say the right thing about bills banning care for transgender kids or imposing censorship in libraries.

Just do the right thing.

Bryan Clark is an opinion writer with the Idaho Statesman based in eastern Idaho.