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Talk To the Judge

New anti-abortion bill headed for Otter's signature

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Bryan Fischer's work is just about done at the Idaho Legislature for this year. The religious activist said with the Senate passage of a new parental consent bill--and with House passage all but certain--Fischer and others feel like they may have only a few remaining items to watch.

The parental consent bill--Senate Bill 1082, sponsored by Sen. Russell Fulcher, a Meridian Republican--passed the Senate 23-12. The measure replaces a law Idaho had almost 10 years ago that was declared unconstitutional by the Idaho Supreme Court. An appeal is still pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and by any estimate, Idaho has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending the constitutionality of bills like these. But backers are confident the new bill will pass muster legally, and even opponents are certain of the bill's chances in the House.

"It'll fly right right through," said Burke Hays, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood of Idaho.

The bill would require any minor girl to get her parents' approval before seeking an abortion.

But if they don't feel comfortable getting that approval, Fulcher's bill allows for a so-called "judicial bypass."

In practice, a teenage girl who wants an abortion is supposed to approach a district court judge and request a hearing for an order to bypass the consent required by Fulcher's bill. The process is designed to protect a girl's privacy, and a 48-hour turnaround is written into the proposed law. A judge is supposed to determine, from the girl's legal arguments, that the performance of an abortion would be in her best interests.

Fischer said girls who want to pursue this option do not need a lawyer.

"It's a very simple process," he said.

In his opposition to the bill, Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett has often questioned just how a teenage girl is supposed to pursue this legal remedy.

"The task is going to fall on organizations like Planned Parenthood to find those girls pro bono lawyers to help them through the system," Hays said.

What is more likely, Hays said, is that girls who find they want an abortion will choose to go to Oregon to get the procedure.

After House passage, the bill will head to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's desk for a signature or a veto. Otter is known for a pro-life stance during his years in Congress, but his office declined to comment on the bill until it gets to his desk.

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