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An Idaho law criminalizes most abortions. Boise leaders voted to limit its enforcement

July 20, 2022 Updated Wed., July 20, 2022 at 11:58 a.m.

Multiple protests against the Supreme Court decision have taken place in Boise.  (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman/TNS)
Multiple protests against the Supreme Court decision have taken place in Boise. (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman/TNS)
By Sally Krutzig Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho — Nearly one month after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which previously granted Americans the right to abortion, the City Council followed up with their own decision on the issue.

The ruling triggered a law in Idaho that will criminalize the providing of most abortions in the state, making it a felony for health care providers to perform abortions.

In a 3-2 vote, the City Council sought to limit the effect of that trigger law by passing a resolution to limit city resources from being used to take legal action against someone for seeking or performing an abortion.

Under the new Boise resolution, law enforcement and others will not be allowed to prioritize “investigations for the purpose of prosecuting abortion providers.” Extra staff and resources cannot be used to investigate providers.

City agencies will also not be able use city funds to “store or catalog” any report of a performed abortion. City funds can’t be used to provide information on abortions to any other government entity. The resolution banned city funds from using multiple means of collecting information intended to aid in prosecuting abortion, including surveillance, data collection and internet activity monitoring.

A separate abortion law that would let certain family members of a fetus sue abortion providers was put on hold by the Idaho Supreme Court after Planned Parenthood brought a lawsuit, the Idaho Statesman previously reported, but the new resolution now prevents the city from using funds to “assist in furthering any civil action” filed under that law.

Conflicting opinions on city’s role

The vote was a close one with Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings, Council Member Lisa Sánchez and Council Member Jimmy Hallyburton voting in favor of the resolution and Council President Elaine Clegg and Council Member Luci Willits opposed.

City leaders expressed differing ideas on the city’s role in the issue.

Clegg remembered the difficulties of life before Roe v. Wade, noting that she was the only member present who was old enough to have experienced life before abortion access.

“I can tell you that it wasn’t a great time,” Clegg said. “I have high school classmates who almost died of botched abortions; self-induced and back-alley both. I have classmates who were offered a vacation to Bermuda to take care of the problem. Because if you happened to have a rich boyfriend, you did have access.”

At the same time, Clegg noted that this was the first time in her 19 years on the City Council that she had been asked to vote on reproductive health care. She said states have not given local government the power to act on this issue.

“As strongly as I feel about this personally, I don’t believe it’s a city issue,” Clegg said.

Others disagreed. Mayor Lauren McLean directly addressed those concerns in her statement. She said abortion access is a city issue because it’s about “decisions that people make in our community.” She also felt that the recent ruling meant cities were the ones being asked to handle the enforcement.

“This is also an issue that’s been dropped right into the laps of cities around the country,” McLean said. “There’s an expectation that we will divert public safety resources from other priorities, to investigate claims and to investigate doctors and to investigate individuals. And that’s not something that our city will do, because there are other higher priorities when it comes to public safety.”

As the timeline for the trigger law to go into effect gets nearer, the Idaho Supreme Court is preparing to hear more than one abortion-related case. A Planned Parenthood affiliate filed a lawsuit last month seeking to stop the state’s trigger law. The Idaho Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case in August.

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