Abortion this year, birth control next year. And the year after that, something else.
That appears to be the agenda for the culture-social warriors in Idaho, after the likely overturning, sometime in the weeks ahead, of Roe v. Wade, which established a legal right to obtain an abortion.
That overturning is something many legislators and other anti-abortion activists in Idaho have been calling for decades: A prime target, one of their key reasons for the political activism they have pursued. In the meantime, awaiting the promised land of a Roe reversal, they’ve been busy drafting one law after another, some attempts to challenge Roe or push the envelope on it, or else take effect if Roe is overturned. But always the finish line was presented as an end to Roe and the illegality of abortion in Idaho.
If the U.S. Supreme Court soon does what almost everyone expects it will do, then, presumably: Mission accomplished, right? The anti-abortion activists have been calling for a return to state-by-state legislating on abortion, and for Idaho to take a hard line against it as soon as that’s possible. The Idaho Legislature has done what it could (and beyond that) to get it done, preparing for a post-Roe Idaho.
Having gotten to that point, you’d think they’d now be happy and, you know, sort of give it a rest. They got what they wanted.
Of course, this assumes that what they actually wanted was what they said they did: A state ban on abortion. (Generally, anti-abortion activists also tended to call for exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, but those exceptions seem increasingly to be forgotten.)
But far from being the end of the story, the odds are we’re closer to the beginning.
Earlier this month, state Representative Brent Crane, R-Nampa, who chairs the House State Affairs Committee (whose committee rather than Health and Welfare handles abortion and related measures), spoke on Idaho Public Television about what comes next. He said that he plans in the next session to hold hearings on bans of abortion pills and emergency contraception, and possibly more. “IUDs, I’m not for certain yet on where I would be on that particular issue,” he added (which strongly suggests that subject also will make legislative agendas next session).
News reports said that he later also said he supports legalized contraception generally. And that he had safety concerns about some of the drugs, presumably the same concerns addressed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more than two decades ago. (The whole idea of which is preposterous: Imagine if you can what kind of intensive medical expertise you could expect out of the Idaho Legislature? Would you rely on it for your medical care?)
But come on: The door has now been opened, and given what we know of the Idaho Legislature (and how few Republican elected officials dare to let themselves be outflanked on the right), how long will it be before someone is tempted to walk through it? Explosive battles over contraception almost surely are just around the corner at the Idaho Statehouse, not to mention elsewhere.
There’s more reason than Crane’s interview remarks for thinking so. Consider: A whole large wing of political Idaho has based a large chunk of its activism, organization, fundraising and political candidacies on the back of a subject that soon would appear, in Idaho at least, to be settled. If you’re one of those politicians or activists or hangers-on, are you going to simply declare victory and go home?
Oh, hell no. What you do is find another, related, battle to fight in the culture war a few yards past the presumed finish line.
And they definitely will find it. There’s a lot of pent-up fury and energy that won’t be sated by a simple Supreme Court decision. It needs new material to chew on; the search won't take long.
Next year, look out for contraception regulation in Idaho.
Wonder where they’ll go the year after that …