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Activists argue Idaho funds unnecessary abortions


Dan Gallagher

Lewiston Morning Tribune-Lewiston, ID


BOISE, Idaho - Anti-abortion activists observing the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade court decision Saturday announced a measure will be introduced in the Idaho Legislature to halt taxpayer funding for what they call "health" abortions.

They also praised the new administration of President George W Bush, who has moved to bar federal funds for international family planning groups involved with abortion and ordered a review on the government's approval of the RU-486 abortion pill.

"An abortion for health reasons should not be confused with an abortion to save the life of the mother," Kerry Uhlenkott, legislative coordinator of Right to Life of Idaho Inc., told hundreds of supporters who marched to the Boise Statehouse on Saturday. "We've learned the health exception is a wide-open loophole and equals abortion on demand."

Uhlenkott said her group supports the Idaho Chooses Life organization's goal to eliminate Medicaid funding of abortions performed when the health of the mother, but not her life, is at risk.

She said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which was a companion piece to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortions, included under the health umbrella the age of the mother, her psychological or economic state, social status and health of the baby.

"Our research shows Idaho is one of only 16 states that provide Medicaid funding for so-called health abortions and is one of five forced to by state law," Uhlenkott said, adding about 240 of the procedures have taken place in the state since 1995 at a cost of more than $100,000.

She said the vast majority of Idahoans, even those who are pro-choice, don't want their tax money to be used for abortion.

Uhlenkott cited one case where a woman in Minnesota was able to get a funded abortion because of morning sickness and another in Indiana who received one because she disliked her appearance in a swimsuit.

The Idaho Chooses Life group announced Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, and Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, would introduce the Idaho legislation.

Lawmakers last session passed a measure requiring minors to obtain parental or judicial consent before receiving an abortion. Enforcement of that law has been blocked by a federal magistrate.

The Rev. Peter West of Priests for Life, a group of Roman Catholic priests against abortions, said he has seen the damage from abortions, physically and mentally.

"Abortion isn't a service, it doesn't help women," he said. "The baby dies once but the woman dies a little bit each day."

Bush said Friday that federal money should not be used for research on fetal tissue or on so-called stem cells derived from abortions, which are used to find therapies for numerous diseases.

"I hope President Bush is true to his promises," West said. "He says he wants all children to be welcomed into life and protected by law. I have great hopes he is a man of his word."

Officials from Planned Parenthood of Idaho and the American Civil Liberties Union, which battled the parental consent measure in court, were unavailable for comment Saturday evening.


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