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After hour of testimony, House panel holds contraceptive bill

After hour of testimony, House panel holds contraceptive bill

Dustin Hurst
February 20, 2012
Dustin Hurst
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February 20, 2012

After more than an hour of testimony and before a standing-room-only meeting room, the House Health and Welfare Committee held a measure Monday allowing Idaho insurance carriers to exclude contraceptives in coverage options.

The bill was the product of Rep. Carlos Bilbao, R-Emmett, who believes that he shouldn’t have to pay for abortions and contraceptives. “I say to you and the federal government, ‘Do not force me to pay for your abortions and your contraceptives,’” Bilba osaid.

The issue has been on the forefront of nationwide discourse since President Barack Obama’s administration issued a rule that all insurance providers will be required to cover contraceptives.

Bilbao objected to the ruling for ideological and theological reason. “They’re mandating me to pay for abortions and birth control pills,” he complained. “That’s your responsibility, not mine.”

Much of the testimony was against the measure, with hearing participants noting that contraceptives are also used to treat other medical issues.

The Emmett Republican, however, said it’s better to be safe than sorry. “I do not know if it’s a pill that’s going to be used to end life or for another medical condition,” Bilbao said.

The doctor duo on the panel, Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, and Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, opposed the measure, though for different reasons.

Rusche said it would be irresponsible for the state to allow carriers to deny payments for contraceptive coverage. “It is bad health care. It increases costs,” Rusche warned. “It puts the employer in the position of forcing his values on his employees and their families.”

Wood said the bill would essentially attempt to nullify federal law, which he says is a discredited practice. “This will spend Idaho’s hard-earned tax dollars defending something we already know falls under federal preemption,” Wood said of the court challenge it would likely require to implement the law.

The measure was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, among others.

The measure was held in committee on a 7-3 vote, though lawmakers left the door open to take it up again if proper amendments could be formulated.

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