The state of Idaho is locked in a legal debacle over a law six professors and two teachers unions who claim it has inhibited free speech in the classroom by “criminalizing” discussions that contain pro-choice views.
The lawsuit, filed with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Idaho, challenges the No Public Funds for Abortion Act that prohibits schools from promoting abortion and bars public institutions from engaging in business transactions with abortion providers.
The lawsuit, brought by five University of Idaho professors, one Boise State University professor, the Idaho Federation of Teachers and the University of Idaho Faculty Federation, alleges the measure’s language isn’t clear and fears of potential consequences for holding discussions on abortion have impeded discussions inside the classroom.
The plaintiffs allege the law violates the First Amendment by “by broadly and prospectively criminalizing all academic speech that might express a viewpoint favorable to abortion,” according to an ACLU of Idaho press release issued Tuesday.
“This law censors teaching, discussion, and scholarship about abortion at Idaho’s public universities, effectively stripping professors of their First Amendment right to academic speech,” the release read.
Additionally, the group alleges the law’s “unconstitutionally vague” speech violates the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause by forcing instructors to guess at what opinions are considered acceptable and which ones violate the law.
“The NPFAA represents an unprecedented and dangerous attack on speech about abortion, part of the unrelenting assault on reproductive health care in the wake of the overturning of Roe. Our clients have been forced to censor their teaching and scholarship about abortion or risk imprisonment, loss of livelihood, and financial ruin,” Scarlet Kim, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said, per the document.
“This impossible choice is both outrageous and unconstitutional, and runs fundamentally counter to the Supreme Court’s declaration over 50 years ago that imposing ‘any straight jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges’ would ‘imperil’ the very ‘future of our nation.’”
Leo Morales, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, was also quoted as saying that college should be allowed to host “vibrant debate[s]” on their campuses “free from government interference.”
The Associated Press reported that both the University of Idaho and Boise State University instructed professors to refrain from referring students to abortion providers or instruct them on how to get emergency contraceptives because of the law.
Idaho Family Policy Center President Blaine Conzatti helped draft the law along with Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, who proposed an amendment during this year’s legislative session to exempt classroom discussions from penalty of the law, according to KTVB in Boise.
Conzatti felt the amendment would be “redundant,” the outlet reported, saying, “I don’t think that amendment would have substantially changed the fact of the law at all.”
Fox News Digital reached out to Conzatti and Skaug for comment, but did not receive an immediate response from the latter.
Conzatti responded with the following: “Ideologically motivated faculty members claim they’ve had to change their curriculum and self-censor because of the law. Such overblown claims reek of political theater. Our law does not prohibit classroom discussion on the topic of abortion, so long as the professor teaches the subject neutrally and doesn’t advocate the pro-abortion position.”
Fox News Digital also reached out to the ACLU of Idaho for comment and also did not receive an immediate response.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.