BOISE, Idaho — A Republican Idaho lawmaker's suggestion on the Senate floor that a doctor should ask a woman who says she was raped if the pregnancy could have been "caused by normal relations in a marriage" brought a rebuke from another legislator who said it's insensitive and suggests women may lie to get an abortion.
Sen. Chuck Winder of Boise, the Senate assistant majority leader, was speaking during closing testimony on a bill to require a woman to get an ultrasound before an abortion, when he addressed foes of the legislation who said it provided no exemptions for medical emergencies — or in cases of rape or incest.
"Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape," Winder said during his testimony Monday, before the bill passed the Senate 23-12. "I assume that's part of the counseling that goes on."
Hannah Brass, the lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Idaho that opposes the ultrasound mandate, said her organization has fielded calls complaining about Winder's comments. "I understand why people are upset," Brass said. "I hope that he did not mean to say that some people use rape as an excuse to receive abortion care."
Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb, a Boise Democrat, questioned Tuesday if Winder was inferring that women didn't know the difference between rape and consensual sex, or would lie about it.
"The audacity of saying such a thing. Rape changes lives, forever," Buckner-Webb said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. "I thought it was so disrespectful."
Winder said Tuesday he never meant to question victims' truthfulness.
Rather, Winder said he meant to say he hoped a woman would work with her physician to determine if a fetus resulted from a rape or was, in fact, a result of consensual relations that occurred outside of the attack.
Winder said he was pointing out that a woman would likely want to consult with her physician and perform tests to determine if the child she was carrying was a product of a rape, so as not to allow doctors to abort a consensual conception.
"I used a married woman, the idea being that as a woman or a couple, whether they be married or unmarried at the time, would want to find out if the pregnancy occurred as the product of the rape, or whether the pregnancy was unknown at the time," Winder told The Associated Press. "There was never any intention on my part to question the honesty of a woman in cases of rape."
Winder said late Tuesday that his Facebook page, as well as his home and cell phones, have been bombarded with messages.
"People totally misunderstood what was said," he said.
Despite his explanation, however, Buckner-Webb still contends Winder's comments on the floor were insensitive.
After a rape, Buckner-Webb said, a doctor should be performing medical procedures to ensure a woman's health, gathering evidence of a crime and taking measures to assure that she has the necessary support.
"Those are the things they should be checking — not the context. That's an affront," Buckner-Webb said. "Let me tell you, a comment like that is very painful. A comment like that is what keeps women from coming forward" when they've been victimized by a violent attack.
The abortion ultrasound mandate is one of the most controversial issues confronting lawmakers. After passing the Senate, it now goes to the House.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.