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Eye On Boise

Tue., March 13, 2012, 8:24 a.m.

House panel backs contraception-coverage memorial on party-line vote

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, tells the House State Affairs Committee that an Obama Administration rule regarding contraceptive coverage would force religious hospitals, schools, and ultimately churches to close, though none of those institutions have said they'd close because of the rule. (Betsy Russell)
Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, tells the House State Affairs Committee that an Obama Administration rule regarding contraceptive coverage would force religious hospitals, schools, and ultimately churches to close, though none of those institutions have said they'd close because of the rule. (Betsy Russell)

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, pitched her non-binding memorial, SJM 104, to the House State Affairs Committee this morning to oppose an Obama Administration rule regarding contraception coverage in health insurance policies. "It is a matter of science that some forms of birth control can be abortion-inducing, which causes the death of the unborn child," Nuxoll told the committee. "This is the greatest attack on our rights since Roe vs. Wade in 1973. ... It is an attack on our right to religious freedom, it's an attack on our right to freedom of conscience, an attack on our right to access health care," Nuxoll said. "If you think about it, why did our forefathers come to this country? They came to be free, they came to be free from a state religion, which it looks like is being imposed upon us now, a state religion."

She repeated her earlier claim from the Senate debate on the measure that "the ultimate consequence will be closing of schools, hospitals, pregnancy crisis centers and ultimately our churches," though none of those institutions have said they'll close as a result of the federal rule.

The measure's Statement of Purpose says the administration's rule "violates the rights of conscience of
a majority of US citizens." Jason Herring, president of Right to Life of Idaho, told the committee, "This is not a religious issue. This is a freedom of conscience issue." He said his group opposes only certain types of contraception. "We maintain that because life does begin at conception, then morally relevant personhood does begin at conception as well."

Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, said, "People of faith are not a monolith, nor are people of conscience. ... My conscience can dictate different things than yours." Other committee members questioned how a federal rule could override existing conscience laws, but then backed the memorial on a party-line vote. Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, said, "I think the case has been made that this is an assault on our state's conscience law." Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, said, "I really do believe that people of faith and conviction are on both sides of this issue."

An earlier non-binding memorial, HJM 10, cleared the same committee last month and passed the House, declaring that the Idaho Legislature backs the Blunt Amendment in the Senate on the topic, which has since been defeated. The amendment, attached to a highway bill, sought to allow employers to exclude any coverage they object to morally from employee health insurance.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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