- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Abortion opponents inside Idaho’s Statehouse went on the offensive Wednesday by advancing legislation that would require a woman be told where she can get a free ultrasound before undergoing an abortion.

The measure is the latest effort in Idaho’s Republican-dominated Legislature to reduce abortions throughout the state.

“This is a simple but very important bill. Truly informed consent requires accurate and complete information,” said Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill would ensure such information is available to them.”

The House State Affairs Committee - arguably the Legislature’s most far-right leaning panel - approved introducing the measure with four democratic members voting against. The bill must now pass a legislative hearing to advance. That has not been scheduled.

If approved, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare would compile a list of providers that offer free ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. The list would be part of the informed consent brochures abortion providers are required to distribute.

Democratic Rep. Melissa Wintrow of Boise questioned the need for the bill, while others quizzed Nate on the qualifications of the provider.

The concern is that most locations that offer free ultrasounds would come from crisis pregnancy centers, which often are run by religiously affiliated groups that discourage women from getting abortions.

For example, Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, who sits on the panel, says that he is also a board member for a northern Idaho crisis center that offers free ultrasounds. The center does not offer or recommend abortions, but does offer information about the health risks of abortions.

“We have offered free ultrasounds since its inception in 2001,” he said. “And we are one of several in this state that do so. I’m going to support this bill.”

Currently, 13 other states require some sort of verbal counseling or written materials to include information on accessing ultrasound services, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports abortion rights. Separately, 25 states impose regulations on how abortion providers give ultrasounds.

Idaho requires that if an abortion provider gives an ultrasound, then the woman must be given the chance to view it.

Anti-abortion legislation is a common push among Republican lawmakers, particularly in election years. According to the most recent state data, abortions in Idaho declined nearly 9 percent between 2010 and 2013 - where 1,375 took place that year.

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