A small group of protesters drew the attention of just about every pedestrian and driver passing by Saturday afternoon in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
About 12 people stood in a row by the recently vandalized suffragette statue on the corner of Front Avenue and 6th Street and held signs denouncing Idaho’s recently enacted abortion ban.
Many drivers on Front Avenue slowed or stopped to read the signs. Some honked, appearing to be in support of the protesters. One woman said, “You guys are amazing,” from her car.
The suffragist statue was vandalized with yellow spray paint March 25, but the paint was gone Saturday.
On March 23, Republican Gov. Brad Little signed a bill that bans abortions, except in the case of a medical emergency, rape or incest, after a “fetal heartbeat” has been detected. The law defines fetal heartbeat, which often is detected around six weeks, as embryonic or fetal cardiac activity.
The law states family members of the fetus may sue the medical professional who performed the abortion for at least $20,000 in damages within four years. Family members include the mother, father, grandparents, siblings or aunts and uncles, the law states. The person who impregnated the mother through rape or incest cannot sue, but a rapist’s relatives can.
The Idaho law is fashioned after the Texas abortion law, which the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed until a court challenge determines its fate, that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and can be enforced through lawsuits, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s, like, the worst bill,” said Coeur d’Alene resident Rose Hicks, who organized Saturday’s gathering.
Hicks, who held a sign that read “DON’T TREAD ON ME” with a drawing of the female reproductive system, said most people seeking an abortion are at or near the poverty line.
“It’s not necessarily that they don’t want children,” Rose said. “A lot of the times it’s ’cause they don’t want children right now or because they’ve already had children and they realized that they can’t afford another one, and that they should be allowed that choice.”
Shari Williams, a longtime Coeur d’Alene resident, called the law “obviously unconstitutional,” and said it is “setting us back about 50 years.”
“I believe in a woman’s right to choose,” said Williams, whose sign read “MY VOICE IS CHOICE: WOMEN ARE NOT BROOD MARES!” “If you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t have one, but don’t try to regulate other people’s bodies.”
Williams said Little, who is running for re-election this year, signed the bill to appeal to voters. Williams, a Democrat, ran for the District 4 state Senate position in 2020 but lost to Republican incumbent Mary Souza.
Will Richards, of Spokane Valley, said he wanted to speak out against the “draconian law” that forces women into being “seed bearers” and “handmaidens” of sorts.
“A woman should have a right to choose however she feels to do with her own body,” Richards said.
Little said upon signing the bill that he was concerned about whether the law was constitutional, and the section of the law that allows a rapist’s relatives to sue, the AP wrote.
“Ultimately, this legislation risks retraumatizing victims by affording monetary incentives to wrongdoers and family members of rapists,” Little wrote.
He encouraged lawmakers to fix those problems to ensure the state protects the interests of sexual assault victims, according to the AP.
The law is expected to be challenged in court. Besides claiming the law is unconstitutional, opponents say six weeks is before many women know they’re pregnant.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.