Idaho women march at the capitol for more than just abortion rights

Photo by Christina Lords

For the first time in years, the Idaho Women’s march actually marched down the streets of downtown Boise, where hundreds gathered in front of the Idaho State Capitol on Jan. 20. 

Minority house leader Representative Ilana Rubel gave a scathing indictment of the Idaho legislature on the steps of the capitol before the march began, calling Idaho one of the worst states when it comes to abortion laws. 

Senate Bill 1229 was introduced on Jan. 20 to legislature, a bill that would remove rape and incest exceptions to Idaho’s already restrictive abortion bans.

While abortion rights were a large part of the discussion, with participants holding signs that said “Paws off my uterus (pervert)” and “abortion rights forever”, Rubel also condemned the Idaho State Legislature for letting the maternal mortality review committee to expire, making Idaho the only state without one. The crowd booed at several points during the speech, booing bills and the Idaho legislature as a whole. 

“These perverse laws are likely to lead to the deaths of more pregnant women and maybe they didn’t want the committee collecting that data and publicizing it,” Rubel said during her speech. “We are also the only version in the state in the country that does not provide a year of postpartum medical coverage.”

For Rubel, and many others, Idaho’s failure to protect women’s health extends beyond the abortion laws. Rubel cited HB 381, a bill that would replace the word “fetus” with “pre born child” in Idaho law. 

“That this is likely to end up blocking in vitro fertilization. Because apparently even if you want to be pregnant, the state and not you is the decider,” Reubel said in her speech.

High school student speakers at the event, Yvonne Shen from Boise High, and Yuxuan Cheng from Renaissance High, said that access to birth control is another women’s health issue that needs to be addressed. 

“One thing I’m very passionate about is access to contraceptives. Because I feel like that is kind of the reason why we have abortion, is the lack of sex education and contraceptives available to especially lower income women,” Cheng said in an interview with The Arbiter. “And so I feel like because abortion is such a hotly contested issue, we kind of disregard the main causes of them. It’s like we do need better sex education and access to those resources so that women can have control over family planning.”

Both young women spoke at the march about their experiences as young women from immigrant families and how race intersects with women’s issues. 

“A lot of issues that we talked about, you know, race, environmental, like social justice a lot of these things are all sort of tied in a way. For example, when we talk about abortion rights, we know that disproportionately low income women receive abortions because they don’t have the financial support to raise a child,” Shen said in an interview with The Arbiter. “And we also know that certain races tend to be more low income, black and brown people have been disproportionately disenfranchised throughout the history of our country. And so these gender issues are also in ways race issues.”

For Nancy Harris, the President of the Idaho Women’s March, intersectionality was also an important theme. 

“We have this overriding fear of our government, our state government, which is doing a horrible thing to the women in our state, [we have] the most draconian laws in the nation,” Harris said. “The most draconian laws to trans kids not being able to get hormonal therapy, the most draconian laws towards our LGBTQ community. There’s not one layer.”

Hundreds walked down 8th St. and circled back to the capitol. Accompanied by a marching band, they marched while chanting “my body my choice” and “women’s rights are human rights”. Some brought pots and spoons to bang as they marched, and others wore outfits or held signs stylized after Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie.

“The message [is] that we won’t be swept under the rug, like our history matters,” Cheng said. “It’s something that you as legislators need to address and we won’t be silenced.”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jamie Richmond

    Thank you for writing this excellent article about extremely important issues that affect EVERYONE in Idaho! Wake up Idahoans! Look up the bills and how your representatives and governor vote on these shameful bills and go to the polls and vote them out of office!!! Help save Idaho from draconian laws that hurt people who just want to live their lives in Idaho.
    Remember the Gender Equity Center has free products to help students with reproductive health care!

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