March 11, 1998 in Idaho

Senate Treads Lightly Around Abortion Bills

Bob Fick Associated Press

Senate Republicans were briefed behind closed doors late Tuesday on possible changes that may be recommended in at least one of the two House-passed abortion bills awaiting committee action.

But Caucus Chairman Mel Richardson of Idaho Falls said there wasn’t even an attempt to reach consensus on what course the Senate’s leadership committee should take when it decides the fate of the bills today.

“The decision of the caucus is to leave it in the hands of the State Affairs Committee,” Richardson said. “Whatever State Affairs comes up with, we’ll go with.”

Authors of the bills, Right to Life of Idaho and the Idaho Family Forum, convinced a huge majority in the House to support their proposals, but have run into some resistance in the Senate.

One bill - HB576 from Right to Life of Idaho - is claimed by sponsors to ban a procedure called partial-birth abortion. But courts in a number of other states have ruled that language in similar bills is so broad it would unconstitutionally ban nearly every abortion after the 13th week of pregnancy.

The other - HB610, sponsored by the Family Forum - is a sweeping revision of state abortion laws that adds a parental consent requirement and extremely detailed physician reporting provisions that critics claim are intended to discourage the availability of abortion.

Attorney General Al Lance has said a number of legal problems in the bills have been corrected. But his latest legal advisory still questions the legality of the requirement that third-trimester abortions be limited to cases where severe mental or emotional harm to the woman involves substantial impairment of a major bodily function.

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