Earlier this week, the Idaho State Senate passed SB1387, a forced ultrasound bill, despite the objections of a majority of the public and even some Senate Republicans. Late Wednesday, in a closed-door caucus, House Republicans voted to cancel Thursday morning’s hearing on the bill, effectively tabling it. For perhaps the first time in this ongoing national struggle, the Republican legislators in Idaho have seen the writing on the wall and they are reading it.
Representative Lynn Luker stated, “Basically, I’m listening to constituents and they aren’t just Democrats. They’re Republicans, they’re from across the spectrum. That was Number 1.”
With this being an election year, some legislators considered the possible negative outcome of actions that many consider to be gross overreach of government authority. Constituents are already angered at the passage of a controversial education reform bill last year and members of the legislature are beginning to fear losing their seats on a wave of public outrage. Adding to their angst is the entrance of a Democratic challenger to SB 1387’s chief sponsor, Senator Chuck Winder.
A contributing factor to the decision to table was an ultrasound demonstration given by anti-abortion activist Brandi Swindell. Swindell’s Stanton Healthcare Center is the only provider of free ultrasounds in Ada County, one of seven in Idaho. Swindell’s presentation was run like a television show with her exclaiming, “Twins! Come on!”
Swindell felt that demonstrating an ultrasound would calm the controversy but it had the opposite effect. After the presentation, the caucus convened and lawmakers raised a host of concerns about the controversial bill. It didn’t take long for the legislative fever to cool amidst concerns that voting their conscience could cause them to lose the election.
Republican Representative Max Black of Boise, a State Affairs member, said that his wife had never expressed her views to him on a bill in the twenty years they’ve been married. But she had something to say about SB1387. She said, “I don’t understand how the Legislature thinks it can do this to women.”
Representative Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian expressed the internal struggle many of the Republican lawmakers are grappling with. “I’m pro-life and I’m pro-business. That’s the dilemma for a lot of people. People are struggling.”
It should be noted that the bill is tabled, not dead. Hagedorn stated, “I don’t think we’re done talking about this.” Come the next legislative session, the bill could be back in play.