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Pickens Manweiler and Bedke spar over abortion rights in Idaho lt. gov. debate

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Aaron Kunz
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Democrat Terri Pickens Manweiler and Republican Scott Bedke participated in the Idaho lieutenant governor’s debate Oct. 28. (Courtesy of Aaron Kunz/Idaho Public Television)

Bedke touts his experience, while Pickens Manweiler attacks it

Abortion rights were among the dominant issues during a lively Idaho lieutenant governor’s debate Friday between Republican Scott Bedke and Democrat Terri Pickens Manweiler.

The debate between Bedke — speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives from Oakley — and Pickens Manweiler — a trial attorney, certified mediator and Democrat from Boise — was part of the Idaho Debates series. It took place in a Boise television studio and was broadcast live statewide and streamed online.

Pickens Manweiler pledges to fight to restore abortion rights in Idaho

There is no incumbent in the race for lieutenant governor because current Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin was defeated by Gov. Brad Little in the May gubernatorial primary election.

Pickens Manweiler said during the Idaho Democratic Party’s summer convention that she looked forward to the chance to debate Bedke, and she wasted no time taking the challenge to her opponent. She criticized Bedke for his votes in favor of Idaho’s near-total abortion ban and a law that gives family members the right to sue a medical provider who performs an abortion. Although the powers of the lieutenant governor are limited, Pickens Manweiler pledged to fight to restore reproductive freedom, first by attempting to work with the Idaho Legislature and then by spearheading a citizens’ ballot initiative if necessary. She also criticized Bedke for using taxpayer dollars to pay for outside attorneys to appeal a court ruling following a U.S. Department of Justice challenge to Idaho’s abortion ban as it applies to emergency care at hospitals.

“You can’t claim to be pro-life when you’re actively opposing a lawsuit that’s sole purpose is to protect the health of pregnant women,” Pickens Manweiler said.

Pickens Manweiler said the Roe v. Wade decision that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned in June had provided a clear standard.

“It was very clear what doctors could and couldn’t do. It was very clear how legislators could legislate or not,” Pickens Manweiler said. “We are now in a void because of the United States Supreme Court decision. What I would like to see, I would like to see all three abortion bans — the two criminal bans and the one civil ban — completely repealed. Now, because a good portion of Idaho supports abortion care, I would suggest that a ballot initiative would be quite successful in Idaho.”

Bedke said he opposes abortion as a right and supports appealing the U.S. Department of Justice challenge as a way to defend the law the Idaho Legislature passed.

“I oppose abortion except in the rare cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in jeopardy,” Bedke said. “I believe that doctors and health care givers should be allowed to do their jobs in the areas of miscarriage management and fertility questions like that, and I believe that was the intention of the bills you are talking about is no elective abortions, but with these exceptions, and let a doctor be a doctor.”

Bedke says he has experience to be lieutenant governor

Meanwhile, Bedke ran on his experience in Idaho government and policy. He’s served for 22 years in the Idaho House, including the past 10 years as speaker — a state record.

He considered his mediation of a longstanding water dispute in the Magic Valley on the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer a major career and policy accomplishment. He also said his accomplishments include leading the Idaho House as it passed multiple rounds of tax cuts and approved a massive tax cut and education funding law during the Sept. 1 special session.

Bedke said he’s worked well with Idaho’s four most recent governors and has the experience to help lead Idaho through its continuing rapid growth.

“As your next lieutenant governor, I will do what I have always done and that is solve problems,” Bedke said. “If I’ve been successful as the speaker of the House, it’s because I have tackled some of the hard issues.”

Pickens Manweiler turns Bedke’s track record against him

Pickens Manweiler argued that the Idaho Legislature took a sharp turn to the right while Bedke was in charge.

“My opponent has been in the House for 20 years. He’s been the speaker for a decade, and in that time he’s failed to rein in the extremism growing in his own party, in his own House caucus,” Pickens Manweiler said.

During the debate, Pickens Manweiler described herself as a lifelong Republican who left the GOP in 2020 because of the number of Republicans refusing to accept the results of the 2020 election and what she described as the party moving away from her personal values.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.