- Alexander Raths
Voting along party lines, the Idaho Senate Thursday approved House Bill 516, requiring Idaho doctors to put a list of free ultrasound providers into the hands of women seeking an abortion.
The bill had already gained national attention when, during a Feb. 25 House committee hearing, Rep. Pete Nielsen (R-Mountain Home) made the bizarre comment that he understood "in many cases of rape, it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the situation."
Days later, Nielsen apologized for his remarks but insisted his statements were based on "prior information."
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) argued against the measure Thursday, saying even the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare had trouble with HB 516. Stennett read from a March 15 email she received from Health and Welfare officials, stating, "We are very concerned with how to comply with this mandate."
Bill sponsor Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R-Cottonwood) argued the legislation "does not limit choice. It just enhances choice. Ultrasounds are truly a window to the womb."
Sen. Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise) said the bill presented "significant First Amendment problems."
"I don't think government is the place to look for moral or religious guidance," said Burgoyne. "We are probably not, in the minds of most people, religious and moral leaders. We're politicians."
The Republican majority voted 28-7 to approve the bill. Having already passed through the Idaho House, the measure now heads to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for his consideration.