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Eye On Boise

Ultrasound bill passes on party-line vote, Nielsen stands by rape-pregnancy comments

The House State Affairs Committee has voted along party lines in favor of HB 516, the bill to require women seeking abortions to be provided with a state-compiled list of providers who could provide them with free ultrasounds, and told they have a right to a free ultrasound and to hear a fetal heart monitor. Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, said, “This legislation does help protect the unborn child.” Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said, “When that ultrasound shows a heartbeat, it is very difficult for an expectant mother to assume that that is not a separate life.”

Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, offered a substitute motion to amend the bill to add a requirement that all information provided by the free-ultrasound providers be medically accurate, that “comprehensive options counseling” be included, and that a licensed health care provider “interpret any ultrasound provided.” That motion died on a 4-13 vote, with just the panel’s four Democrats supporting it. Then, a motion to send HB 516 to the full House with a recommendation that it “do pass” carried on a 13-4 vote, with just the same four Democrats dissenting.

After the meeting, Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, said he stood by his comments that pregnancy is unlikely in cases of rape or incest. “It doesn’t happen as often as it does with consensual sex, because of the trauma involved,” he said. “That’s information that I’ve had through the years. Whether it’s totally accurate or not, I don’t know. In a rape situation, there’s a lot of trauma,” which he said he believes can prevent pregnancy. “That doesn’t mean it will. I believe that’s the case.”

Asked how he knew that, Nielsen said, “I read a lot of information. I have read it several times. … Being a father of five girls, I’ve explored this a lot.”

Wintrow said, “This is the problem with our Legislature – we’re not making decisions based on scientific fact, we’re making it based on conjecture and opinion. What that kind of a statement does to somebody who’s been victimized violently – it’s ignorant, it’s insensitive,” she said. Wintrow, who’s been involved in work with victims of sexual violence, said, “That is the problem with our Legislature. We don’t consider the data. It’s just our opinion.”

Hannah Brass Greer, legislative director for Planned Parenthood in Idaho, said, “That’s obviously, medically, scientifically inaccurate. That type of comment we’ve heard before, when politics get in the way of medical care.” She said such statements point a finger of blame at rape and incest victims who become pregnant, suggesting they must have consented to the attacks. “It’s harmful on so many levels.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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