March 24, 1998 in Nation/World

Abortion Foes Hold Lawmakers Until Bitter End Some Legislators Blame Election-Year Politics

Betsy Z. Russell Erica Curless Contr Staff writer
 

Bitter, contentious and dominated by the abortion issue.

The 1998 legislative session didn’t turn out the way anyone had hoped - with the exception of a few dedicated backers of anti-abortion legislation.

Exhausted lawmakers finally adjourned at 8:30 p.m. Monday, approving - after four days of last-minute negotiations - a bill requiring parental consent for teenagers’ abortions.

“The number I’ve heard is that this bill will save a hundred babies a year, the parental consent part,” said Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Hayden, co-sponsor of the measure that had delayed the end of the session. “I think that’s a good investment.”

During late-night maneuvering on the bill Friday, the Legislature almost passed a version containing a new definition of abortion that would have included some of the most common forms of oral contraceptives.

Though more than 400 bills were passed this year - including some significant changes in Idaho’s laws - the session’s troubled ending left many lawmakers angry and dissatisfied. Some legislators said they were essentially held hostage by anti-abortion lobbying groups, forced to extend the legislative session into Monday when they’d completed all their other business by dinner time Friday.

Each additional day the Legislature is in session costs taxpayers $30,000.

Many blamed politics. House Speaker Mike Simpson and Twin Falls Rep. Mark Stubbs both are vying for the Republican nomination for Congress in the deeply conservative 2nd District.

“I’m going to make a suggestion for a change to the rules next year,” said Sen. Clyde Boatright, R-Rathdrum, “… that anyone running for statewide office or for Congress would not be allowed to remain in leadership.”

As senators and representatives milled around impatiently Monday, waiting for results from closed-door leadership meetings, Boatright said, “I think the speaker being in the 2nd Congressional District race is what’s caused this whole fiasco.”

A patched-together abortion bill that emerged from a conference committee about 8 p.m. Friday - on what most assumed to be the last day of the session - included new changes to Idaho’s abortion laws that never were the topic of any hearing and that hadn’t been considered by either house.

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who initially supported the bill, said she couldn’t back that kind of move. The Senate had earlier amended the bill, but the Idaho Family Forum, a conservative Christian group that first proposed the bill this year, didn’t like the amendments.

“We were elected from across the state to represent thousands of people,” Keough said. “The day that one group dictates state policy is a sad day indeed.”

Though they were kept in the Capitol until nearly midnight on Friday, heavily pressured senators couldn’t come up with the two-thirds vote needed to immediately accept the compromise. Keough held out, even when the tally was just one vote short of two-thirds.”I just refused to make laws that way,” Keough said. “That was wrong.”

Simpson, who last year was declared the Family Forum’s “Citizen of the Year,” has swung in and out of the group’s good graces all session. On Friday, he reached an agreement with Senate President Pro-tem Jerry Twiggs that he’d work hard to get a pay raise for elected officials through the House, if Twiggs would work hard to get the abortion bill through the Senate.

Simpson delivered on the pay-raise bill.

An angry Simpson said Monday that the fight in the Legislature’s last days wasn’t over whether he could deliver the goods for anti-abortion groups. “It’s unfortunate that people are perceiving it that way - that has absolutely nothing to do with it,” he said. “The fact is we’ve got an important issue to resolve. … I think people think what we’re doing is important.”

Rep. Larry Watson, D-Wallace, said abortion may be a big election issue in southeastern Idaho. “Up north, it’s more of a ‘What in the devil are you guys doing wasting our time and money on this issue?”’ he said.

Watson said his mail from home was running 10-1 against the bill.

“I keep hearing this isn’t what we ought to be doing down here. People are real angry,” he said.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

NEW ABORTION BILL

A new version of HB 610, an anti-abortion bill first proposed by the Idaho Family Forum, passed the Legislature late Monday night. The bill would:

Require minors to have a parent’s written consent to get an abortion. The only exceptions would be for severe medical emergencies or by a judge’s order.

Require all women seeking abortions to show positive, government-sanctioned identification that shows their age.

Add a new definition of abortion.

Stiffen reporting requirements for doctors who perform abortions.

Here’s how North Idaho legislators voted on the measure:

Voting yes were: Reps. Jeff Alltus, R-Hayden; John Campbell, R-Sandpoint; Jim Clark, R-Hayden; Chuck Cuddy, D-Orofino; Hilde Kellogg, R-Post Falls; and Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint; and Sens. Gordon Crow, R-Hayden; Marguerite McLaughlin, D-Orofino; Jack Riggs, R-Coeur d’Alene; and Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint.

Voting no were: Reps. Wayne Meyer, R-Rathdrum; Don Pischner, R-Coeur d’Alene; and Larry Watson, D-Wallace; and Sen. Clyde Boatright, R-Rathdrum.

Rep. June Judd, D-St. Maries, missed the vote.

- Betsy Z. Russell

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

Staff writer Erica Curless contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: NEW ABORTION BILL A new version of HB 610, an anti-abortion bill first proposed by the Idaho Family Forum, passed the Legislature late Monday night. The bill would: Require minors to have a parent’s written consent to get an abortion. The only exceptions would be for severe medical emergencies or by a judge’s order. Require all women seeking abortions to show positive, government-sanctioned identification that shows their age. Add a new definition of abortion. Stiffen reporting requirements for doctors who perform abortions. Here’s how North Idaho legislators voted on the measure: Voting yes were: Reps. Jeff Alltus, R-Hayden; John Campbell, R-Sandpoint; Jim Clark, R-Hayden; Chuck Cuddy, D-Orofino; Hilde Kellogg, R-Post Falls; and Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint; and Sens. Gordon Crow, R-Hayden; Marguerite McLaughlin, D-Orofino; Jack Riggs, R-Coeur d’Alene; and Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint. Voting no were: Reps. Wayne Meyer, R-Rathdrum; Don Pischner, R-Coeur d’Alene; and Larry Watson, D-Wallace; and Sen. Clyde Boatright, R-Rathdrum. Rep. June Judd, D-St. Maries, missed the vote. - Betsy Z. Russell

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer Staff writer Erica Curless contributed to this report.


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