BOISE (CN) - An Idaho lawmaker got an anatomy lesson Monday when he asked a doctor if a woman could swallow a camera to conduct a remote gynecological exam.
State Rep. Vito Barbieri posed the question during testimony to the House State Affairs Committee. The bill at issue, HB 154, would bar doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing drugs through telemedicine services.
Planned Parenthood posted an audiotape of the exchange on the Internet.
Dr. Julie Madsen, who provides telemedicine services in Idaho, described a procedure in which colonoscopy patients swallow a device that gives doctors a clearer view of parts of the colon.
"Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?" Barbieri asked.
Madsen replied: "Mr. Chairman and representative, it cannot be done in pregnancy simply because when you swallow a pill it does not end up in the vagina."
As laughter broke out in the room, Barbieri said: "Fascinating. That makes sense."
Barbieri, a Republican from the state's 2nd District, sits on the board of a crisis pregnancy center in northern Idaho. He voted in favor of HB 154, which was passed 13-4 on a party-line vote. It now heads to the House floor for a full vote.
The bill is backed by Idaho Chooses Life, which describes itself as an "action committee to support pro-life candidates for public office."
Supporters of the bill say it would protect women against adverse reactions to abortion medications. Opponents say it is merely an attempt to restrict abortions. Some testimony Monday came from rural women who don't have ready access to clinics.
Barbieri told the Spokesman-Review he wasn't fazed by the attention he's gained.
"I was being rhetorical because I was trying to make the point that equalizing a colonoscopy to this particular procedure was apples and oranges," he said. "So I was asking a rhetorical question that was designed to make her say that they weren't the same thing and she did so. It was the response I wanted."
Another proposed bill would bar prescribing abortion drugs through videoconferencing. The Idaho Senate is considering a third bill that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals.
Republican Rep. Linda Bateman said that, in her view, "this may reduce the number of abortions."
It's not the first time Idaho lawmakers have received attention while debating abortion legislation. In 2013 Republican Rep. Ron Mendive asked the American Civil Liberties Union-Idaho in a committee hearing if its pro-abortion stance meant that it supports prostitution.
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