House Bill 154 requires in-person physician care to administer RU-486.
Boise Democratic Rep. Melissa Wintrow said "it became clear" as House Bill 154 made its way through the House State Affairs Committee that the debate surrounding the bill, which would put tighter restrictions on chemical abortions in Idaho, was about more than the procedure.
"This bill isn't about safety," Wintrow said. "It became clear, as the comments drifted toward morality and who should or shouldn't have an abortion. In fact, I heard one person in committee say they hoped that the bill would reduce the number, thus restricting access."
Wintrow turned to her colleagues, knowing that she was on the losing end of the debate, and said, "If this bill is truly about safety, we should limit all medications involved with telemedicine."
HB 154 specifically targets abortion-inducing drug RU-486 and requires the procedure be supervised by a doctor and therefore not eligible for telehealth counseling in rural Idaho.
"This bill wasn't brought by the medical community," said Boise Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel. "It was driven by anti-abortion activists."
Plummer Democratic Rep. Paulette Jordan said she came from a family of caregivers.
"Not one of them supports this bill," she said. "This does nothing to enhance the safety of women."
The bill's sponsor, Iona Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher, insisted that HB 154 doesn't prohibit the use of RU-486 nor does it prohibit abortions, leaving Jordan, Rubel, Wintrow and the other Democrats on the committee to fight an uphill battle.
"This is just one more way to try to restrict a woman's right protected under the Constitution to have a safe and legal abortion," said Wintrow. "I'm voting no."
The bill has garnered more than a few headlines. During the committee hearing, Dalton Gardens Republican Rep. Vito Barbieri infamously asked a caregiver if a gynecological exam could be conducted if a woman swallowed a small camera.
On March 2, Barbieri joined his GOP colleagues to vote, along party lines, 55-14, to pass the bill, sending it to the Senate for consideration.