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Thousands gather at Idaho State Capitol in Boise for abortion rights rally

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Thousands of Idahoans gathered in front of the Idaho Capitol Building on May 14, 2022, to attend the Bans Off Our Bodies abortion rights rally. The event was organized by Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of Idaho, Add the Words Idaho and other groups. (Christina Lords/Idaho Capital Sun)

Planned Parenthood organized rallies across the country in anticipation of U.S. Supreme Court ruling

Thousands of people gathered at the Idaho State Capitol in downtown Boise on Saturday morning for an abortion rights rally staged as advocates brace for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that would lead to abortion being criminalized in Idaho.

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, the ACLU of Idaho, Add the Words Idaho and others organized the “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally in Boise, which was one of many similar rallies taking place across the country this weekend.

The rally was launched in the wake of Politico’s publication of a leaked draft of U.S. Supreme Court ruling that indicates the court is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that guarantees a right to an abortion. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Idaho has a so-called “trigger law” in place that would make abortion a felony punishable by a prison sentence of at least two years.

“We are at a crisis moment for abortion rights … but this is not the end because they were not counting on this,” said Idaho State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman as she surveyed the crowd that flooded Jefferson Street in front of the Statehouse and filled much of nearby Cecil D. Andrus Park.

During the 2020 legislative session, legislators passed Senate Bill 1385, which would make it a felony to perform or attempt to perform an abortion. That law would take effect 30 days after any U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade is issued. Breaking Idaho’s law would be punishable by a prison sentence of a minimum of two years. A first violation of the law would also result in the suspension of the medical provider’s professional license, while a second violation would lead to the permanent revocation of the provider’s professional license.

Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, told the crowd to get registered to vote and then vote. But she said that isn’t enough. She encouraged rally participants to register others to vote and donate to progressive candidates who support abortion rights.

On May 6, Necochea appeared on an episode of Idaho Public Television’s “Idaho Reports,” where Idaho House State Affairs Committee Chairman Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said he would absolutely hold a hearing on legislation to ban emergency contraception, Plan B pills or intrauterine devices, or IUDs.

“Overturning Roe v. Wade is not their endgame; it is just the beginning,” Necochea said at Saturday’s rally. “The supermajority in the Idaho Legislature is hostile to contraception.”

Many of the thousands of people who attended the rally held colorful homemade signs and chanted “my body, my choice” as they marched from the Capitol to the Idaho Supreme Court Building and back.

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A woman holds up a sign at the Bans Off Our Bodies abortion rights rally at the Idaho Capitol Building in Boise as Idaho state Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, gives a speech. (Christina Lords/Idaho Capital Sun)

Persephone Haines held a sign that read “LET’S TALK ABOUT THE ELEPHANT IN THE WOMB” that depicted the Republican Party’s elephant mascot.

She said she attended because she is a woman and a member of the LQBTQ community who is worried about women, people of color and LGBTQ people being stripped of their rights.

“I am here because I don’t want our children to grow up in a world where they don’t have rights,” Haines said.

Haines said the size of the crowd sent the message that although Idaho may be a red state, there are many people who are engaged and united to support reproductive rights and women.

“It is amazing,” Haines said. “We had a huge crowd. So many people turned out.”

The list of speakers included DelliCarpini-Tolman, Necochea, Anai Bell from the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, Planned Parenthood intern Julissa Melendez, former Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, Dr. Caitlin Gustafson, Alexa Roitman and Lisa Gardner, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon.

A small number of counter protesters held campaign signs for former President Donald J. Trump and DelliCarpini-Tolam told the Bans Off Our Bodies advocates to ignore them and not engage.

Two Boise Police Department officers who patrolled the rally told the Idaho Capital Sun they did not have an official estimate for the size of the crowd and were not aware of any arrests.

Gustafson, an Idaho physician who said she has provided abortions, told the crowd she was angry.

“The truth is, abortion is safe, essential health care,” Gustafson said.