March 14, 2012 in Idaho

Party-line vote passes pre-abortion ultrasound bill

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Russell photo

Capitol security guards, including Charlie Harris, left, move in front of Senate State Affairs Committee members after they approved the pre-abortion ultrasound bill on a party-line vote, prompting angry shouts from some in the crowd in the Capitol Auditorium on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)


View the full debate on the Eye on Boise blog.

BOISE - An Idaho Senate committee has voted 7-2 along party lines to pass legislation requiring an ultrasound before any Idaho woman could have an abortion, after two hours of emotional testimony that was mostly against the bill.

The vote prompted several loud, angry shouts from a few in the large audience. Security guards quickly moved to stand in front of the senators as they gathered their computers and papers to leave the committee hearing; the bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote.

Sen. Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, moved to kill the bill, but Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, made the substitute motion to pass it.

“I do appreciate the testimony today,” he said, and mentioned a Boise physician who had just testified against the bill. “She said don’t let your concern for the unborn influence your decision. That’s the major factor influencing my decision.”

Dr. Heather Hammerstedt told the senators, “I feel strongly that this bill should not pass. The Idaho Legislature is mandating that a specific portion of its population undergo a medical procedure. .. The standard of care should be determined by those providing that care.”

She compared the bill to requiring doctors to perform a spinal tap on every person with a headache, because it would be indicated for some, or requiring all children to be vaccinated, even if their parents object. “Do not allow your real concern for the unborn to intervene in the rights of the patient or of the medical profession,” she said.

Sue Philley of Boise presented a petition with 4,000 signatures against the pre-abortion ultrasound bill. “Health care decisions are best made by patients and their medical providers, not politicians,” she told the senators. “This government intrusion into private lives makes a mockery of the expressed Republican goal of less government.” Her statement was immediately greeted by loud applause. After it died down, Senate State Affairs Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, admonished the crowd not to make outbursts.

Malepeai said, “This is an emotional issue, as it should be. … It seems to me that when I go to a doctor, the door is closed and I have a personal conversation about my health. It’s very, very private.”

Sen. Michelle Stennet, D-Ketchum, called the bill “unconscionable.” But she and Malepeai cast the only two votes against the bill.

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, the bill’s lead sponsor, said, “This was brought to me by Idaho Right to Life and a group of women who asked me to be the sponsor of this legislation. I do that proudly in that I do believe the state has an interest in protecting the life of the unborn. That’s the purpose here, at least for me.”

Opponents said it would require women to undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasounds, because those are the only procedures that yield information in early pregnancy the bill requires to be recorded from the ultrasound. Winder said the bill original specifically mentioned the more invasive procedure, but he altered it to take that out and leave the choice of procedures up to the patient and physician.

Winder said. “Some people will feel this is an intrusion into the private lives and decisions of women. I understand that and I respect their point of view. I just see that there’s a higher, at least in my opinion, need to respect the life of the unborn and to respect the life of the developing child.”

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