BOISE – Five of six North Idaho senators opposed requiring Idaho women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, but the proposal passed the Senate 23-12 Monday after an emotional 90-minute debate.
State Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, said, “You know, fellow senators, as a woman, and as a person of faith, this bill makes me want to cry. I want an end to abortion as well as all of you do, and I am totally opposed to abortion except in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother. But I find this bill to be intrusive into my faith and it is punitive as a woman.”
Five Republicans joined all seven of the Senate’s Democrats in an unsuccessful effort to defeat the measure, Senate Bill 1387. It now moves to a House committee, where it’s also expected to pass.
“I believe that it gives the unborn one more chance to make the case that they should live,” said state Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, who supported the legislation. “And to me that overrides the other concerns that I might have about this bill.”
Supporters are arranging live ultrasound demonstrations for lawmakers.
State Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, a co-sponsor of the bill, said late Monday that a Boise-area crisis pregnancy center will conduct ultrasounds on three pregnant women Wednesday in a state Capitol hearing room.
During the Senate debate, the measure drew unexpected opposition but too little to overcome its overwhelming GOP support.
State Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, told colleagues, “I hope this bill isn’t just another litmus test to prove that you’re truly a conservative. There seems to be a presumption that a woman considering abortion is uninformed and needs government guidance. … But I would submit that rather than government guidance, their guidance should come from their physician and their family and their clergy.”
State Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said her GOP primary challenger has made the bill her No. 1 issue. Keough said she’s strongly pro-life, but doesn’t believe the state should mandate a medical procedure. “We have our opinions and we have our feelings, but we’re not doctors,” Keough said. “What place do we as a government have in that room with that patient and with that doctor?”
Opponents also noted that the bill would require rape or incest victims seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound, at their own expense.
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, told the Senate, “I believe the state does have an interest in the life of the unborn. That’s what the debate’s about. Does it add cost? Yes, it does. I would just ask you to consider the pricelessness of the unborn.”
Winder said he rewrote the bill to take out specific references to an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure, but opponents said the bill still effectively requires that procedure by requiring recording of fetal heartbeat and other information that, early in pregnancy, can’t be produced through traditional abdominal ultrasounds.
State Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said that’s what persuaded him to oppose the bill. “I think it’s more intrusive than what’s been represented,” he said.