Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Controversial abortion bill dies in House

Lobbyist: ‘This debate is far from over’

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo From left, Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum and interns Alysha Prisbrey and Shelby Scott participate in a protest vigil against state-mandated ultrasounds before abortions on Monday night. The bill that the women were protesting died in committee yesterday, but threatens to return next year.

A bill that would have required women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion died in committee on Tuesday, after protesters held a vigil on the Statehouse steps and a committee chair refused to schedule a hearing.

House State Affairs Committee Chair Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said late Tuesday that despite pressure from anti-abortion groups, the bill would not be scheduled for a hearing this session.

"The path forward from here is to hold off until next year and make another run at this in probably a little different way," he told the Idaho Statesman.

The basis of the bill, according to proponents, was that women should be as informed as possible before undergoing the procedure. An ultrasound—abdominal or transvaginal—is the most accurate way to date the pregnancy, according to the bill itself.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, whose comments in closing debate made national news when he said a women seeking an abortion in the case of rape or incest should be asked to discuss with a physician whether the pregnancy was "caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by rape."

Winder later clarified that he meant that he simply hoped women and doctors would work together to ensure the pregnancy to be terminated truly was caused by a rape and not another, consensual, incident.

"There was never any intention on my part to question the honesty of a woman in cases of rape," he told The Associated Press in a later interview.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, voted against the bill on the floor along with 11 other senators. However, it passed to the House on a 23-12 vote.

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said the bill was likely held in the House State Affairs Committee due to a combination of factors, including constituent outcry and a public ultrasound demonstration in the Statehouse that she described as "over the top."

"I didn't attend, but it really offended a lot of Republicans," Jaquet said of the demonstration, which included three women undergoing ultrasounds in front of a slew of protesters, reporters and a few lawmakers.

Right to Life of Idaho President Jason Herring said in a press release that the group would continue to lobby to limit abortions in the 2013 session.

"This debate is far from over," Herring stated.

Energy tax credit extended

Jaquet won a hard-fought and lengthy battle Monday as a bill that would expand tax deductions for homeowners making energy-efficiency improvements passed the Senate and headed to the governor's desk.

"That's huge," said bill co-sponsor Jaquet in an email. "I've been working on that bill at least two, maybe three, years."

Though the bill could result in a $975,000 revenue loss for the state in fiscal 2013, Jaquet said the economic benefits outweigh the costs—homeowners can save on energy bills, and that funding can remain in the local economy. She said it will also create jobs for those who perform the upgrades.

Katherine Wutz:

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