February 26, 1998 in Idaho

Simpson Pulls Back Abortion Bill House Speaker Felt Pressure On Contraceptives-Consent Issue

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Idaho will not try to require parental consent before teenagers get contraceptives.

House Speaker Mike Simpson said late Wednesday that he’ll ask that the proposed law be sent back to committee and killed for the session.

Simpson, who originally proposed the bill along with the Idaho Christian Coalition, was in a tug-of-war all day between anti-abortion activists, legislators, the Idaho Medical Association and the Idaho Attorney General’s office.

He set off a firestorm of criticism and lobbying when he distributed a proposed amendment to his bill - one that would have deleted the entire bill, and replaced it with new provisions that would require parental consent for abortion and would fix three constitutional flaws in Idaho’s current abortion law.

Those are the stated aims of an anti-abortion bill sponsored by the conservative Christian group Idaho Family Forum. But that bill, which has passed the House, also includes additional restrictions on abortion, reporting requirements, penalties and other changes.

Simpson initially said he wanted a “clean” parental consent law. If the Family Forum bill, HB610, were to pass the Senate and his bill were to languish, that would be fine, he said. But either way, Idaho would get parental consent for abortion.

Backers of the Family Forum bill were furious. “The speaker’s amendments, to me those are absolutely anti what we’ve been trying to do here,” said Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Hayden, one of the sponsors of the Family Forum bill.

The amendments add a third-trimester health exemption, which the attorney general says is constitutionally required. The Family Forum bill’s health exemption has restrictive wording that critics say would lead to a court challenge.

Simpson said many concerns were raised by legislators and others about his contraceptive-consent bill.

In an advisory that Simpson requested, the attorney general’s office confirmed Tuesday that Idaho would lose more than $1 million in federal funding for family planning for poor women if it passed a parental-consent law for contraceptives. Those funds serve 31,000 adult women throughout the state.

On Friday, the Idaho Medical Association came out against the bill, raising concerns about its provisions requiring parental consent for all prescription drugs.

“Some people don’t like the loss of the federal funds. Medical people have concerns about the prescription drugs. There are people who have concerns that requiring parental consent for birth-control pills may in fact increase the abortion rate,” said Simpson, as he signed a stack of letters on his desk.

He estimated there were between 400 and 500, all responding to constituents who wrote to him objecting to anti-abortion legislation being considered in the Legislature this year.

Fighting a headache, he said, “now I’m going to start on the prolife side.”

Idaho Christian Coalition Director Nancy Bloomer, who had co-sponsored the contraceptive bill with Simpson, said she wouldn’t stand for Simpson’s amendments, or any others that would remove the prescription drug consent clause but keep consent requirements for medical procedures.

“If both of these aren’t included in the bill, then I’d just as soon it stay in the House,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a pro-family bill any more. I think it’s an anti-family bill.”

She added, “If you take out prescription drugs, that essentially guts the bill.”

Simpson said some people suggested his bill “may in fact kill the Family Forum bill, and we didn’t want to do that.”

“So I think the best thing to do is to pull it back to committee and declare success. We have advanced the right-to-life cause substantially in this Legislature, assuming that the body across the rotunda takes up the issue.”

Senators still are considering how to handle HB610 and a measure banning so-called “partial-birth” abortion. The attorney general has raised constitutional questions about parts of HB610, and has issued two opinions essentially declaring the partial-birth bill unconstitutional.

In a Wednesday afternoon press conference in the Capitol, Family Forum director Dennis Mansfield unveiled a new radio ad taped by U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth pushing for the partial-birth abortion bill.

“This bill is of national importance,” Chenoweth says in the ad, which opens with an announcer saying, “The following is a special message from Idaho Congressman Helen Chenoweth.”

Chenoweth urges listeners to call their state senator, or call her office for help if they don’t know who their state senator is.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email