(CN) — Trek down one of Idaho’s longest roads and it won’t take long to see a billboard towering above promoting an anti-abortion mission statement bought and paid for by one of the state’s anti-abortion groups. Take that road down a little further and you’re in the heart of downtown Boise, where on weekends it's common to see groups of demonstrators gathered around public parks toting pro-abortion slogans. Turn off that street a bit and you’ll find a Planned Parenthood office, where demonstrators of both camps can be found and their signage is used to tell them apart.
These have become common sights across most of America, but in Idaho, they are far from new. For decades, the state has been caught in a conflict between a GOP ready for its opportunity to show their disdain for abortion, and a far more progressive capital city populace that — while still politically outnumbered in the red state — has stood ready to defend abortion rights that were so long afforded to them.
Then, the United States Supreme Court opened the floodgates for states to do with abortion laws as they wished, and it seemed Idaho saw a winner in its conflict crowned. But that reality may not be so simple — and that battle may be far from decided.
One of the first questions that emerged for Idahoans following the state’s push against abortion rights was just how far the state was willing to go with them. Lawmakers have passed at least three separate bans that, taken together, outlaw virtually all abortions in the Gem State.
Melissa Wintrow, Democratic Senator from Idaho’s 19th District, says one of those bills passed by her fellow lawmakers suggests an exception in the event of rape or incest, an exception that has found its way in other bans across the country — but the senator says Idaho’s is all but nonexistent.
“With the bill that they put through, they indicate that there is a narrow exception for rape or incest,” Wintrow said. “Well it’s not really an exception at all. They require a police report, and as I told them on the Senate floor two years in a row . . . that we have a law that exempts police reports from public records. I just heard from someone two days ago who has been trying to get a police report for four months. So, as I told my colleagues, this exception is really no exception.”
This contradiction between what one Idaho law says you must do to qualify for an abortion exception and another law that seems to make that goal impossible is not a new discovery and was the subject of debate for the Idaho Legislature. So how then did GOP lawmakers resolve the paradox when it was raised to them? According to Wintrow, they didn’t.
“On the Senate floor, they just dismissed it. ‘No, you can get it.’ And they know they can’t. One of the senators is a former prosecutor, and they know they can’t. It’s just defeating and it’s disingenuous. They are basically tricking people into thinking they are being compassionate when they are not.”
But contradictory or not, the state’s abortion bans may be on a collision course with another problem: how they will hold up if their biggest city has no interest in them.
Not long after one of the bans became reality, Boise’s City Council passed a resolution that not only affirmed their commitment to the protection of reproductive rights, but announced they would not be prioritizing any of their time and resources on investigating abortions or enforcing the bans. Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said that following the bans there was an expectation that the city would divert its resources towards investigating claims and doctors, but the city had more important things on its plate.