The Senate has voted 27-7 in favor of HB 154a, the “chemical abortion” bill, which places new restrictions on abortions that are performed by medication, such as RU-486, rather than by surgery. Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, warned of “web-cam abortions,” in which she said the physician never sees the patient in person, though those haven’t happened in Idaho. “We want to be pre-emptive and protect women from this practice,” she said, “by requiring a doctor to be present.”
Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, spoke against the bill. “Women deserve equal access to legal and safe abortion regardless of where they live,” she said. “Medication abortion is extremely safe. … Limiting access to this option would force those women to unnecessarily undergo a more invasive procedure.”
Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, a physician, said, “Every description I have heard of the ‘web-cam abortion’ would be illegal in Idaho right now. … So what are we doing here? Be careful.” He noted that the version of the bill that earlier passed the House would have effectively outlawed treatment of life-threatening ectopic pregnancies in Idaho; a Senate amendment, at the request of the Idaho Medical Association, corrected that. “How do you feel about that?” Schmidt asked the Senate. “Do you guys want to be doctors? That’s what we’re doing here. We’re putting rules in statute to define medical practice. … I don’t think it’s wise. I will be voting against this.”
Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, debated in favor of the bill. “These web-cam abortions are specifically targeted at women in very rural parts of our state. How will they get to a physician … in case of an incomplete abortion?” she asked. “Those are life-threatening situations. So I think it would behoove us to pass this bill, because it is a matter of women’s health, and I think in Idaho we have the common sense to see that this is an important procedure for us to protect women and to not go down this path in our health care delivery system.”
Several senators noted that the Senate already has passed telemedicine legislation that bans prescription of abortion medication through telemedicine. Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, said, “To me that’s the general framework. This is specifically related to an actual procedure within that. I think they’ll both work together.” All Senate Republicans who were present voted yes; all seven Senate Democrats voted no. The only absentee was Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, who is recovering from gall bladder surgery.