Anti-abortion forces have picked up the torch of a potential challenger to state House Speaker Michael Simpson’s Republican congressional bid, daring the GOP legislative leader to sanction a full-scale debate this winter on the issue.
“We welcome the signal that in 1998, Speaker Simpson will allow full and fair consideration of such legislation,” Idaho Christian Coalition Executive Director Nancy Bloomer said in a statement.
Bloomer called recent comments by Simpson “a green light” to bring up abortion issues in the next session.
Since announcing for the congressional seat being vacated by Republican Representative Michael Crapo, Simpson has been attacked by state Senator Stan Hawkins for the speaker’s 1990 vote against what would have been the nation’s toughest abortion ban. Crapo is running for the U.S. Senate.
Simpson says he voted against the 1990 bill because he was advised that it was unconstitutional, pointing out that several conservative Republicans also opposed the bill that was ultimately vetoed by then-Gov. Cecil Andrus.
On Monday, he reiterated his opposition to any anti-abortion legislation that is not constitutional. He again said he supports parental notification and opposes public funding of abortions and using abortion as a method of birth control.
The speaker said he believes groups like Bloomer’s realize any bill similar to the 1990 proposal “is unconstitutional and running another bill like that is not going to get anywhere and what you have to do is do those things you can do, that are allowed.”
Bloomer said the Idaho Christian Coalition will push legislation this winter to require parental notification and consent before a minor can obtain an abortion. Simpson quickly said he would personally sponsor that kind of bill as long as it has a provision for what would be essentially judicial approval in cases where the minor can prove parental consent is not in her best interest or that she has been abused.
“I’d carry a bill on parental notification,” Simpson said. “You’ve got to have a judicial bypass to make it constitutional. Whether we think it’s right or not, that’s what the courts say we have to have.”
State law already prohibits public funding for abortion. But Bloomer said the coalition is out to ensure there will be enforceable prohibitions against using abortion for birth control along with parental consent requirements.
Earlier, Hawkins announced he would introduce legislation to ban partial-birth abortions, which involve termination of the fetus at the time of delivery while the head remains in the birth canal.
Skeptics see the move as purely political since state figures show only five of the 970 abortions performed in Idaho in 1995 came after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Simpson has indicated he would vote for the bill if it came to the House floor but questions the need since Idaho law already prevents late-term abortions except in rare circumstances.
Another anti-abortion group, Idaho Chooses Life, has said it will not support Simpson’s congressional bid because of his 1990 vote. The general impression that Republicans favored that restrictive legislation while Democrats opposed it was a key factor that fall in the Democrats scoring their biggest electoral victory in a generation.
Because of that, a number of Republicans have questioned just how far abortion legislation will get in the overwhelmingly GOP Legislature during the 1998 election-year session.