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Wednesday, October 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Divided Senate, after hours of debate, passes abortion complications reporting bill, sends to governor

After much debate – which stretched from the Senate’s morning session into its afternoon session – the Idaho Senate has voted 21-14 in favor of HB 638, to set up extensive new reporting requirements for complications resulting from abortions, including all types of health conditions, even if they occur years after the abortion. Numerous senators spoke out against the bill, with many saying they oppose abortion, but see the bill’s reporting requirements as much too far-reaching – and that such reporting requirements don’t exist for any other health condition.

“I’ve never debated against an abortion bill,” said Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett. “That’s not really why I’m standing up. ... I’m very interested in reducing the cost of health care.” He said primary care providers already “spend at least half their time on paperwork. So while I think getting data on this ... could be very helpful, I think this goes too far.” He also noted that the bill includes serious penalties for violations by doctors, including professional sanctions, misdemeanor penalties and $1,000 fines. “This sounds more like a totalitarian state to me,” Thayn said. “If this was any other subject, we wouldn’t put up with this – any other subject.”

Others questioned whether the bill was unfairly requiring extensive reporting of personal medical information for women in Idaho. Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, dismissed that idea. "There’s not any men having abortions, so this is not a gender issue," he said. "This is an issue about a medical procedure that we don’t have the data on."

Among the personal information that would be required to be reported under the bill is the woman’s age, race, how many children she has, if any of her children have died, and how many abortions she’s had in the past, along with the abortion provider and facility where the abortion was performed. The state would aggregate the information for an annual report and make it available to the Legislature and the public, with personal identifying information removed.

Such laws have been proposed in multiple states since a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down Texas laws that had contributed to the shuttering of more than half of the state’s abortion clinics; the court found there was insufficient data to justify that state’s restrictions.

Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said in his closing debate that the bill was brought to lawmakers by Idaho Chooses Life and other anti-abortion groups, and urged support for it. The measure earlier passed the House; it now goes to Gov. Butch Otter.

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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