Boise narrowly passes law to ‘deprioritize’ use of police resources for abortion investigation

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The City of Boise narrowly adopted a resolution Tuesday to deprioritize investigation and the use of police resources related to abortion.

Last month, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision that overturned Roe V. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion.

Last spring, the Idaho Legislature passed a measure to ban abortion after about the sixth week following conception, when fetal cardiac activity is detected. The law, signed by Gov. Brad Little, is modeled on a law in Texas that would allow family members to sue the doctor who provided the abortion in civil court. Little, when signing the legislation, said it was likely to be found “unconstitutional and unwise.” A separate 2020 law, which included a so-called “trigger” based upon the US Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade, could go into effect this summer. The laws are being challenged in the Idaho Supreme Court, with arguments set for next month.

The Boise resolution, which passed on a vote of 3-2, directs Boise Police or other city departments not to prioritize the prosecution of abortion providers. It also said that the City of Boise would not take several actions unless required by state or federal law. They include storing or reporting information around reports of abortions in the city, or assisting in certain civil actions.

The resolution specifically notes that the city would still take action in the cases of any abortion “involving coercion or force used against the pregnant person, conduct criminally negligent to the health of the pregnant person seeking care” and where abortion is investigated as evidence in another crime, like sexual assault.

McLean: ‘This is a city issue’

“I believe this is a city issue,” Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said. McLean put forth the resolution for the council’s vote. “It’s been given to us as an issue. It’s a city issue because of people and decisions people make in our community.”

McLean alluded to the SCOTUS and Idaho legislation, and said the city wouldn’t go along, except as specifically required as outlined in the resolution.

“There’s an expectation that we will investigate claims, against people, against doctors,” she said. “That’s not something we will do because we have higher priorities as a city.”

Council members for

City council president pro-tem Holli Woodings, who moved adoption of the resolution, said it came down to how city resources are used.

“We don’t want the resources of our city diverted from public safety where it belongs,” Woodings said. “We don’t want tax dollars to be infringing on the privacy of our citizens.”

Council member Lisa Sánchez said she was moved to run for office in 2018 due to unspecified changes in the country that made her reevaluate what it meant to be an American citizen by birth.

“I’m very grateful to the mayor for bringing this forward because I know this can be very divisive,” Sánchez said. “For people to be afraid to call an ambulance because of an ectopic pregnancy… all that does is put our community in peril.”

She echoed Wooding’s comments on the use of city resources.

Council members against

Council President Elaine Clegg voted no on the resolution but worked to explain why. Clegg spoke in personal terms and said earlier in her life she miscarried. Following the miscarriage, she said she underwent a procedure known as dilation and curettage.

“I myself had a miscarriage, and I myself had a D&C,” Clegg said. “And it’s quite likely I would not have been able to have five children… had I not gotten proper treatment.”

She said abortion isn’t an issue she thinks the government should be involved in, and spoke of growing up in the US before Roe. She said she knew high school classmates who had botched abortions, who had children that ended up in abusive relationships, and more.

“This isn’t a choice that should be made by the government,” she said.

But, Clegg also didn’t feel it’s something the city should be involved in.

“As much as states have claimed rights to take these abilities, they have refused the ability of local officials to have these same rights,” she said. “There’s not much I can do to change this. As strongly as I feel about this issue, I can’t support this resolution though I support the right of the mayor and the police chief to make these decisions.”

She said she would work personally to change this, but didn’t feel she could vote for McLean’s resolution as a city official.

Council member Luci Willits touched on a largely symbolic resolution the city passed that urged state and federal leaders to take action on gun regulation.

“A few weeks ago the mayor put forth a gun resolution. Now we have an abortion resolution. And there’s a lot of other cities that have done the same, including Seattle and Portland, and others. I think we need to get back to the business of Boise.”

While Willits didn’t speak to the substance of the resolution, she sounded a note of caution on bringing these types of issues into local government.

“I worry that we, by passing resolutions like this, are hyper-politicizing local government, and for that reason, I will be voting no.”

Ultimately, Woodings, Sánchez and Hallyburton voted yes. Willits and Clegg voted no. Council member Patrick Bageant was not present.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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