Idaho House passes abortion bill
Unchallenged Nebraska law serves as model for measure
Wed., April 6, 2011
BOISE – The Idaho House passed far-reaching anti-abortion legislation Tuesday with backers invoking “the hand of the Almighty” and saying they’re prepared to defend the new law in court.
Senate Bill 1165 bans abortion after 20 weeks on grounds of fetal pain. It includes no exceptions for rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality or the mental or psychological health of the mother. Only when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or physical health could a post-20-week abortion be performed.
“Is not the child of that rape or incest also a victim?” asked Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton. “It didn’t ask to be here. It was here under violent circumstances perhaps, but that was through no fault of its own.”
The Idaho legislation is patterned after a Nebraska law passed last year and not yet challenged in court. Similar bills have been proposed in a dozen states this year. Kansas passed one last week, which is awaiting action by the governor there.
The Idaho bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told legislators that the “hand of the Almighty” was at work. “His ways are higher than our ways,” Crane said. “He has the ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples.”
State Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said the bill would force parents of infants with severe deformities who won’t survive to carry the pregnancy to term, rather than letting them decide how to react to the situation on their own. “These diagnoses were made right at about 20 weeks,” said Rusche, a pediatrician who has handled three such cases. “To knowingly force someone to carry a baby to term when they know it’s not going to survive I think is cruel.”
The bill passed the House on a 54-14 vote and now heads to the governor’s desk. It includes provisions for a legal defense fund that could accept donations.
Two legal opinions from the Idaho attorney general said the bill is unconstitutional because it violates the Roe v. Wade decision regarding state restrictions on abortions prior to the point of fetal viability.
Idaho spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars defending unconstitutional anti-abortion state legislation passed in the 1990s, including $380,000 in attorney fees the state was ordered to pay in 2007 to Planned Parenthood of Idaho after that group challenged unconstitutional provisions in a 2005 abortion parental consent law.
All 13 of the Idaho House’s Democrats voted against the bill; they were joined by one Republican, Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow.
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