Rep. Carlos Bilbao, R-Emmett, took up the issue that consumed Washington, D.C., last week -- proposing an Idaho law to prohibit requiring insurance policies to cover contraception, sterilization and "abortifacients," or abortion-inducing drugs.
Bilbao presented his House Bill 530 to the House Health & Welfare Committee Thursday, saying he was responding to the Obama administration's controversial policy regarding contraception services.
"It is an attack on my rights of conscience," said Bilbao, a Catholic. "It is an affront to my religious freedoms...It is not right that we have to bow down and take something that is against our moral beliefs."
The measure was opposed by Hannah Brass, legislative director of Planned Parenthood of Idaho.
Brass said the measure discriminates against women because only they use contraceptives and jeopardizes their health because many women use pills for other health reasons.
"We believe that all women, regardless of where they work, should have access to preventive care," Brass said, adding that 90 percent of American women use birth control medication during their lifetimes.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a physician, also raised the question of other therapeutic uses of contraceptives and sterilization. Bilbao said he wasn't prepared to reply.
The committee did not act on the bill Thursday because the meeting agenda was not properly posted on the Legislature's website, said Chairwoman Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls. Additional testimony will be taken Monday, she said, before the committee votes.
Bilbao also presented a non-binding joint memorial to Congress House Joint Memorial 10 which covered similar ground with a conscience exception for health insurance and medical coverage.
HJM 10 urges Congress to pass legislation that would allow insurers, purchasers and other stakeholders with religious or moral objections to specific items or services to decline to provide or obtain coverage of such items or services, or allow health care providers with such objections to decline to provide them.
Brass and the ACLU of Idaho's Monica Hopkins both opposed HJM 10. Hopkins said the ACLU will testify Monday against HB 530.