Idaho House and Ohio passes abortion bill
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.
A bill that would require doctors to determine the viability of an unborn child if a woman seeks an abortion after 20 weeks passed the Ohio Senate on Wednesday.
“Soon, abortionists will no longer be able to perform these brutal late-term abortions when the child can feel pain,” said Mike Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life. “That will be a true victory for human rights.”
Gonidakis said a doctor seeking to perform an abortion has to determine viability at 20 weeks and get a second opinion from another doctor, and abortion would not be allowed if the fetus was found capable of surviving outside the womb. Exceptions would be made if the pregnant woman faces death or severe health impairment, Gonidakis said.
The bill passed by a 24-8 vote in the Republican-majority Senate. The Ohio House also has a Republican majority.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio executive director Kellie Copeland said the bill’s health exception is “dangerously narrow” and harms women with wanted pregnancies who experience “heart-breaking complications,” such as fetal anomaly or a cancer diagnosis.
“Anti-choice politicians who campaigned on less government are now passing legislation that creates more governmental interference in women’s personal decisions,” said Copeland. “Every woman’s situation is different, and it’s unacceptable for anti-choice lawmakers to think they should make the personal, private decisions that belong to women and their doctors.”
About 16 states are seeking bans on late-term abortions based on research showing that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, copying a similar law that passed in Nebraska in 2010. This list does not include Ohio, since it is not specifically a “fetal pain bill” but a viability bill.
Fetal pain bills have passed both chambers of the legislature in Kansas, Idaho and Oklahoma.