by Andrew Crisp
Update 4:40 p.m.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the House State Affairs canceled its originally scheduled hearing on the controversial Senate Bill that would have required an ultrasound procedure for any Idaho woman seeking an abortion, even a victim of rape or incest.
The committee's calendar had originally slated a hearing for Thursday, March 22, at 7:45 a.m., but late this afternoon, the same calendar read: "No meeting scheduled."
The Spokesman Review's Betsy Russell reported that House Republicans had been in closed-door caucusing through much of the afternoon.
Original Post Wednesday, March 21, 3 p.m.
Protesters of Republican Sen. Chuck Winder's bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion rallied at the Capitol today. In particular, they targeted a highly unusual demonstration inside a Statehouse committee room in which the pro-life organization Stanton Healthcare, including founder Brandi Swindell and members of her staff, performed live ultrasound demonstrations on a group of six pregnant women ranging in gestation.
"I would do it every day if I could," one of the volunteer women told the crowd while an abdominal ultrasound was performed on her.
She and the process were obscured by a partition that read, "Voices from the Womb: Knowledge is Power."
"We want to show the humanity of the child, the heartbeat of the baby," Swindell told the audience. "We want the babies in the womb to have the opportunity to testify. The babies themselves deserve to have a choice in this debate."
The two-hour process was emceed by Swindell, who used a microphone to walk the audience through the process. Members of the audience, many of them clearly against Swindell's demonstration, scoffed, jeered and on more than one occasion, loudly applauded protesters who yelled out over Swindell and her employees.
"This is shaming of women," said Lea Bowman, a local social worker. "This is just religiously motivated. Women have access to information, they're just forcing it on them. I actually interviewed [Swindell] in graduate school for a paper. It was an exercise in patience."
Bowman was called into the hall after she yelled out in opposition to Swindell. An Idaho State Police officer reprimanded her in the hallway.
"He said, 'No more outbursts,'" said Bowman.
The audience included Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Janice McGeachin and Cottonwood Republican Rep. Sheryl Nuxoll. They listened and watched as a mother named Lorrena, who declined to provide her last name, said she had five children and was carrying her sixth. She said she was pro-life, but only after having undergone an abortion when she was younger.
"I'm pro-life, but I wasn't always that way," said Lorrena. "It's an industry and it's a cold industry that profits off of this. The parts of that baby will be thrown in a trash can, the walls of the uterus scraped. I woke up in a cold room, I thought I woke up in hell. It was like an assembly line of horror and death."
Numerous times, the audience requested to ask questions of the process or information given by Stanton Healthcare staff. Swindell promised a question-and-answer session after the ultrasounds were finished. However, at 1:45 p.m., the demonstration ended, with no Q&A forum.
Swindell said she would answer questions out in the hall, but then told press that she had only five minutes for interviews.
"So two hours and no Q-and-A session? We gave you respect and you can't give it back?" yelled one woman.
Another man accused Swindell and Stanton of stumping for funds, wielding a pamphlet from Stanton that had been placed at the front of the committee room. Swindell denied that the demonstration was a fundraising event.
The House State Affairs will take up the issue on Thursday morning, March 22, at 7:45 a.m. in the West Wing auditorium on the garden level.