BOISE - Controversial anti-abortion legislation that caused a brouhaha before being withdrawn in Virginia was introduced in Idaho today, to require an ultrasound before any Idaho woman could have an abortion.
The issue is that at very early stages of pregnancy, before six to eight weeks gestation, a regular abdominal ultrasound doesn’t provide a clear picture of the fetus, requiring instead an invasive transvaginal ultrasound, a procedure that includes penetration of the patient with an ultrasound wand. Idaho Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, said the original version of his bill specifically mentioned that procedure, but he removed it.
“It didn’t require it, but in my opinion it was confusing … so we took it out,” Winder said.
In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell and GOP lawmakers abandoned their bill last week after an outcry and national ridicule on TV programs like the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live; McDonnell said, “Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state,” the Associated Press reported.
In Virginia, a female lawmaker called the proposal “state-mandated rape,” according to the AP; an amended bill is now pending in that state.
The Idaho bill was introduced in the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning on a party-line vote, with only the panel’s two Democrats objecting.
“Because ultrasound is a key element of informed consent, it should be required that a woman have that before she has an abortion upon her,” Kerry Uhlenkott, legislative director of Right to Life of Idaho, told the senators. “Information empowers a woman to make true, informed decisions.”
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, immediately moved to introduce the bill, and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, seconded the motion; Sens. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, and Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, then asked Uhlenkott questions about the bill.
“This is requiring an invasive procedure to be done possibly against someone’s wishes as part of a medical process,” Stennett said. “Do you see any contradiction in requiring someone to have a procedure like this?”
Uhlenkott responded, “No, the informed consent is vital for a woman, ultrasound is vital for a woman to have, before she makes her decision on whether to have an abortion or not.”
After Winder’s change, the Idaho bill now says, “The physician who is to perform the abortion or a qualified technician shall perform an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant patient, using whichever method the physician and patient agree is best under the circumstances.”
Winder said if the woman and doctor opt for the non-invasive procedure and it provides no clear picture, “Then there’s no harm done.”
Winder said while he’s not aware of any other Idaho state law requiring that a medical procedure be performed without the patient’s consent, “I think it’s an appropriate thing in this case to do, because you’re trying to determine the developmental stage of the fetus. … We feel that the state does have a right to look after that unborn child.”
The bill now will be scheduled for a full hearing in the committee.