BOISE • A House committee cleared a bill on a party-line vote Thursday to require abortion providers to supply a list of places to get a free ultrasound at least 24 hours before performing an abortion.
The bill’s supporters pitched it as a way to ensure women have access to more information to help them decide whether to terminate a pregnancy.
“The ability to have a free ultrasound will enhance her right to make a truly informed decision,” sponsor Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, told the House State Affairs Committee. He said the bill’s opponents were being “paternalistic” by seeking to deny women information.
“This bill evidences true trust in women,” he said.
Some argued the bill would reduce the number of abortions. Carrie Uhlenkott, lobbyist for Idaho Right to Life, said as many as 90 percent of women choose not to get an abortion after seeing an ultrasound.
“The opportunity to see a heart beating in real time provides an accurate portrayal of what is occurring inside their bodies,” said Angela Dwyer, clinic manager of the crisis pregnancy center Stanton Healthcare in Boise.
Stanton has a clinic on Shoshone Street in Twin Falls as well, and two people from the Twin Falls location testified at the hearing.
One of the objections of the bill’s opponents is that the state would be directing women to organizations like Stanton. Stanton describes its counseling as “pro-life and Christian” on its website, and says it doesn’t “offer, recommend, or refer for abortions or abortifacients, but we are committed to offering accurate information about abortion procedures and risks.”
“I’m concerned we’re sending innocent people to the wrong facilities that should not be endorsed by the health and welfare department of the state,” said Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer.
Other opponents argued the bill would not provide any additional care for women.
Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said the state shouldn’t advertise a private business, and said that, if the goal is to make women aware of all their options, crisis pregnancy centers should have to provide information on Planned Parenthood as well.
Wintrow made a motion to amend the bill to say any clinic on the list is required to provide medically accurate information, which failed on a party-line vote.
Idaho already has a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, and women must receive state-directed counseling including information on medical and potential emotional risks associated with abortion, and medical risks associated with carrying a baby to term. The list of ultrasound providers would be compiled by the state Department of Health and Welfare and added to the packet of information women are already given.
“The requirements of this bill have little to do with informed consent and everything to do with pushing women toward facilities with anti-abortion agendas,” said Hannah Brass Greer, Idaho lobbyist for Planned Parenthood.
Marci Glass, pastor at Southminister Presbyterian Church in Boise, said that if the bill were really about information, it would cover scans for other medical procedures as well. Glass said the bill uses religion as a pretext to limit the freedom of others.
“You are pushing someone’s religious views as a cost onto medical providers,” she said.
Kathy Griesmyer, lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union in Idaho, said the law “puts politics above a woman’s health.”
“It’s just another attempt to remind women the government is interfering with whatever health decision they might be making,” she said.
Lawmakers who voted for the bill pointed out that there are no recorded instances of a crisis pregnancy center in Idaho providing inaccurate or misleading information. And Dwyer objected to the characterization of crisis pregnancy centers by the bill’s opponents. Several people testified about the training the staff undergoes and the medical professionals who work at them, and Dwyer said her clinic doesn’t show women graphic pictures or try to shame them away from getting an abortion.
“We don’t have a money-driven agenda,” she said. “We don’t come at them preaching.”
The bill’s supporters, all Republicans who generally believe in limited government, argued protecting the lives of the unborn is a proper function of the state. Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, recited to Griesmyer the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, emphasizing the word “life” in the line “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
“Scientific, not just religious teachings, prove beyond a doubt that the fetus is a live, living individual,” Nielsen said.