Writings and observations

Because leaders in the Idaho Senate opted on Friday to adjourn for the day, so some members could get going back home for the weekend, they ran out of time for voting on one of the most contentious bills of the session – a bill requiring an ultrasound before a woman, including victims of rape and incest, could terminate her pregnancy. That means the Senate floor vote, on the measure sponsored by Senator Chuck Winder, R-Boise, likely will happen this week, after members have had a chance to hear about it from constituents.

They are likely getting an earful.

Similar measures have popped up in legislatures around the country, and a lot of them are stalling or being walked back after infuriated reaction has set in – a lot of it, though by no means all of it, from women. And by no means all in liberal areas. The Twin Falls Times News has a poll up on its site asking readers whether they support the bill. With about 1,400 responses in (as of Sunday evening), the vote was 68% no, 32% yes. The Times News is not based in a liberal part of Idaho.

And we’d probably not be reading too much into noting that Winder’s legislative blog, which this session has been kept regularly up to date with fresh posts, has been silent since March 9 – just before the ultrasound measure surfaced. Winder’s campaign page on Facebook has been swamped by critical comments over the last week.

All of this has been bringing back to mind the session of 1990, the bitter legislative session when lawmakers passed, and then-Governor Cecil Andrus vetoed, what would have been the nation’s most restrictive abortion law. For years after that legislators stepped gently in the area of abortion, because of what happened in the elections in Idaho later that year: A batch of legislators who were key backers were defeated or nearly lost for re-election, in some of Idaho’s most conservative precincts. The bill’s main Senate sponsor, Roger Madsen, who represented one of the most conservative Republican legislative districts in Ada County, was defeated that year by a Democrat. The abortion debate wasn’t, probably, the whole reason for the results that year, but clearly it was a key factor.

Could something like that happen this year? We can’t really know for quite a while; the elections are a ways off yet. But we can say this: The legislative setup for such a perfect storm, the prerequisite, is certainly in place. The anger over the requirement set up in the bill is larger and getting larger, rapidly. And we can also say this: The candidate field for legislative offices this year is unusually large.

Something interesting might be happening.

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Idaho