This week, I was gaveled down on the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives. My offense? Referencing pregnancy while debating a bill designed to mandate abortion investigations by local police.
House Bill 22 seeks to strip local control and prohibit the explicit prioritization of criminal investigations. It is a direct response to the City of Boise deprioritizing abortion investigations, but extends to any felony and threatens to cut off state funding for local governments. And while the language refers to all felonies, the Republican sponsor made it clear that he was targeting local governments that deprioritize the criminal investigation of abortion.
While cash-strapped law enforcement departments ought to be able to differentiate between rape or fentanyl dealing and marijuana possession, the bill threatens to defund those that do. It targets local governments that formally deprioritize any felonies, but, as the bill sponsor made clear, abortion investigations are the central objective.
Idaho has one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country. It not only criminalizes personal medical decisions with prison sentences but also provides cash awards to family members of the patient who sue doctors and nurses. Even family members of rapists can sue for these dollars.
I couldn’t have imagined Idaho’s abortion policies becoming worse, but Idaho’s Republicans are nothing if not creative. Invasive police investigations are the next level of cruelty awaiting us. Can we now expect local law enforcement to show up on doorstep to interrogate a woman or teenager about how her pregnancy ended, who her doctor is, and if she can prove it was a miscarriage by showing her medical records?
A 2022 poll commissioned by the Idaho Statesman found a significant majority of Idahoans believe that neither the patient who receives an abortion nor the doctors and nurses should face criminal penalties. This new legislation doubles down on an unpopular policy that may play to far-right extremist ideology but is out of touch with regular Idahoans.
Based on my experience in our debate, I’m guessing that some Republican leaders are waking up to the unpopularity of their abortion policies. They are not changing their policies. They are just trying to hide their motivations.
As Idaho Democrats, we will continue to speak truth to power, even in the face of resistance.
There’s too much at stake to remain silent.
Lauren Necochea, Idaho Democratic Party Chair