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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

‘Conscience’ bill passes House, heads to Guv

The "conscience" bill on abortion, emergency contraception and end-of-life care has won final passage in the House on a 51-18 vote, but it wasn't a straight party-line vote. Democrats Branden Durst of Boise and James Ruchti of Pocatello voted in favor of the bill, along with most House Republicans; while Republicans Tom Trail of Moscow and George Eskridge of Dover voted against it, along with most House Democrats; Rep. Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, missed the vote. The measure, SB1353, earlier passed the Senate, so it now heads to the governor's desk. It permits any licensed health care professional, from pharmacists to nurses, to refuse to provide any treatment or medication that violates their conscience if it relates to abortion, emergency contraception, end-of-life care or stem cells. "They would not have have to provide a service that was not in agreement with their conscience," said Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, the bill's House sponsor.

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a physician, said, "Certainly issues of conscience are important to all of us and should be respected." But he said in his opinion the bill conflicts with existing laws on medical treatment. "The bigger issue in this is really who's watching out for the patient," he said. Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said Idahoans will see the bill as "an extraordinary intrusion by government into their private lives ... trampling on their right to be left alone to make their own decisions about life and death."

An earlier attempt by House Democrats to divert the bill for amendments to remove the end-of-life care part failed on a near-party line vote. As written, the bill would permit a nurse, for example, to refuse to disconnect a feeding tube that a dying patient wanted removed, if doing so would violate the nurse's conscience. The bill was written by anti-abortion advocates with the group Idaho Chooses Life.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.