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Eye On Boise

House passes abortion ultrasound bill after stormy debate

After a tempestuous debate today, the House voted 56-13 in favor of HB 516, the abortion ultrasound bill that requires women seeking abortions to be provided with a state-compiled list of providers who will give them free ultrasounds, and told they have a right to a free ultrasound and to hear a fetal heart monitor. “Our savior Jesus Christ said, ‘Behold your little ones,’” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, told the House. “This bill gives a woman the opportunity to behold her little one before making a life-and-death decision.”

The vote split largely along party lines, with 13 of the 14 House Democrats voting “no,” and all Republicans present voting “yes.” Rep. Dan Rudolph, D-Lewiston, the only Democrat to vote in favor of the bill, said he supported the bill because “it didn’t require women to have one, it gave them an option to go to a clinic.”

Twice during the debate, Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, objected to comments from opponents of the bill, first when Rep.  Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said, “It’s really about coaxing and coercing and persuading women” – which Batt said was questioning the motives of the sponsor, prompting Wintrow to respond, “I was quoting what was said in committee” – and second when Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, said, “I find it odd that a man is bringing this bill forward telling women what to do.” Batt rose and said, “Mr. Speaker, that’s inappropriate.”

Various representatives were debating the bill for the second time when Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, asked to debate for the first time, which requires unanimous consent once the House has moved on to second-round debates. Wintrow objected. That prompted a long pause while lawmakers consulted rule books and pondered what to do. Finally, Scott moved that she be allowed to debate for the first time, and her motion passed on a divided voice vote.

Scott then said, to laughter, “I’m beginning to have second thoughts and I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.  And I wasn’t trying to cause trouble – it just seems to follow me sometimes.”

Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, who was in the chair as House Speaker Scott Bedke was addressing an Idaho Press Club luncheon, told Scott, “You know what paves the way to certain places.”

Scott then told the House, “I have a lot of random thoughts from all the testimony and I just felt compelled to share some things. We talk about informing a woman, and I truly believe that an informed woman can make great decisions, and I do not believe that women are being informed properly. Mothers are told that there’s a piece of tissue growing inside of them.”

Nate said, “This proposed legislation seeks to provide women with additional relevant and important information before an abortion so they might avoid the profound grief and sorrow which comes from learning the truth after it is too late.”

Three Republican women spoke in favor of the bill; three Democratic women spoke against it. Five  Republican men spoke in favor of the bill; one male Democrat spoke against it.

Among their comments: Wintrow declared, “Let a woman freely walk into the clinic she wants to walk into, and let’s not put the Idaho state seal on any given list.” Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said, “This is a baby, this is a life, this is a beating heart.” Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, said, “You can only make good decisions if you have all of the information, and I think that’s what this bill allows for, especially in the circumstances of young girls. … There are times when young women who are in a troubling  situation and one that is stressful and even scary may not have all of the information available to them to make an informed decision, and I think this bill allows for that to happen.” Scott said, “According to our law, it is legal to stop this heartbeat, but maybe it’s not moral.” Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, said, “This legislation invades the patient-physician communication. Every woman deserves to receive unbiased information pertaining to her health.”

Nate said, “I’m a man, I’m a husband, I’m a father of three beautiful daughters, we have a son too, I also have a mother. And to say that a man can’t have a voice here in terms of respecting women, respecting them and trusting them with the ability to make decisions for themselves, I think it’s mistaken.”

Today’s House passage sends the bill to the Senate side.

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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