Several Republicans in the Idaho state senate, including the chairperson of the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee, are refusing to back a proposal that would require parents to seek medical attention for their sick, or even dying children, instead of relying on prayer.
The current state law allows parents who practice faith healing to avoid charges of manslaughter, capital murder and negligent homicide if God decides to ignore them.
In Idaho, some children are becoming very ill or even dying of preventable diseases like pneumonia, diabetes, and food poisoning because their parents rely on prayer instead of medicine. The proposed bill would eliminate the religious exemption loophole and hold parents accountable.
“These are not things children die of in our time. This is what children died of back in the 1800s — not in the 2000s,” said Linda Martin, a vocal supporter of the new bill who grew up in a faith healing sect.
However, Republican lawmakers oppose the bill proposal because they feel it infringes on the freedom of religion. A similar bill failed to pass in 2014 for the same concerns after which the state suffered a string of preventable child deaths.
“Children do die,” said Christy Perry, a Republican Idaho representative. “I’m not trying to sound callous, but [reformers] want to act as if death is an anomaly. But it’s not — it’s a way of life.”
The proposed bill, would make it possible for law enforcement to prosecute parents if “the child is harmed or sickened or dies” while medical treatment is refused. At this time, the bill is merely a proposal, and may not even reach the floor because of strong Republican opposition.
Unfortunately, Lee Heider, the chairman of the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee, also believes that a child dying because parents refuse to give them antibiotics is a “way of life.” Heider is content with the current law that “encourages” parents to seek medical attention, but does not mandate it.
“I believe the law is pretty straightforward,” said Heider. “We would encourage them to seek medical care, but we don’t force people to seek medical care — and whether it’s because they can’t afford it or, in this case, because of their heartfelt religious belief, we simply don’t do that.”
Heider said that he will not back the bill, although another lawmaker may choose to back it and debate it on the floor. However, Linda Martin confirmed that there is no plan for the bill to be debated currently.
Watch a report on the story from KBIO-2 in the video below:
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