The sponsor of an Idaho mandatory ultrasound bill, state Sen. Chuck Winder, made some highly controversial comments Monday during his closing arguments, suggesting women might falsely use rape as an excuse to obtain an abortion.
Just before the Idaho's Senate passed the bill, which requires woman to have an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion, opponents of the bill pointed out that it makes no exception for rape victims, incest victims or women in medical emergencies.
Winder, a Republican from Boise, responded to those concerns by raising the question of whether women understand when they have been raped.
“Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this," Winder said on the Senate floor. "I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that's part of the counseling that goes on.”
Women reported 84,767 "forcible rapes" in the United States in 2010, according to the FBI's most recent Uniform Crime Report; the figure does not include statutory rape, incest or any other kind of rape that falls outside the FBI's narrow definition of the crime.
If Winder's mandatory ultrasound bill becomes law, a victim of rape or incest or a woman with a medical emergency who is seeking an abortion must obtain an ultrasound first and the state will provide a list of providers. Nearly every provider of free ultrasounds in Idaho is a "crisis pregnancy center," which aims to dissuade women from having an abortion. The woman would also have to obtain from a doctor a second ultrasound, which would involve an invasive transvaginal procedure if she is in her first trimester of pregnancy. Even if she averts her eyes from the ultrasound image and refuses to listen to the fetal heartbeat, she would have to hear the doctor describe the fetus in detail.
Proponents of the bill describe it as one more way to protect "unborn children," with the assumption that the ultrasound procedure and anti-abortion counseling might sway women against having an abortion. Opponents argue that it forces doctors to perform medically unnecessary procedures and contributes to the emotional anguish of women who have already made a very difficult decision.
One woman wrote last week about her painful experience with Texas' new mandatory ultrasound law in the Texas Observer, in which she had to listen to a doctor describe the gravely ill fetus that she had sought to abort to protect her own health.
The state Senate voted 23 to 12 to pass the controversial ultrasound bill on Monday, with all seven Democrats and five Republicans against it. The Republican-controlled House is also expected to pass the measure.
“Fellow senators, as a woman and as a person of faith, this bill makes me want to cry," said state Sen. Diane Bilyeu, a Democrat. "I want an end to abortion as well as all of you do, and I am totally opposed to abortion except in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother. But I find this bill to be intrusive into my faith, and it is punitive as a woman.”