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Coalition of Idahoans launch ballot initiative to restore abortion rights

May 2022 pro-choice rally at Idaho Capitol
George Prentice, Boise State Public Radio
May 2022 pro-choice rally at Idaho Capitol

As Idaho faces national scrutiny over its strict abortion bans, a Coalition of Idahoans is launching a ballot initiative aiming to restore abortion access, protect birth control and shield physicians from criminalization.

The Idahoans United for Women and Families Coalition said their poll of about 600 residents shows three out of five Idahoans believe abortions should be legal in some or almost all cases. Spokesperson Melanie Folwell said polling also shows 12% believe abortions should never be legal.

“Too often that is the loudest voice in the room,” she said on a press call Friday. “Those are the people influencing our legislators to make the laws that we're now dealing with, and it just doesn't represent the vast majority of Idahoans.”

Folwell said that’s why the Coalition is campaigning to introduce an initiative on the 2026 ballot. Citing a recent study showing 22% of OBGYNs have left the state in the wake of the bans, Folwell said the campaign will focus first on writing policy clarifying Idaho’s many abortion laws.

“That policy does need to address this sort of massive tangle of laws already on the books that aren't working very well,” she said, adding it should also reflect Idaho values and align with doctors’ needs ”to stop this hemorrhaging of folks leaving the state.”

To do so, the Coalition will have to gather signatures representing at least 6% of eligible voters in the most recent election, coming from at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.

A graphic breaking down results from a poll asking "Which statement best describes your position on the issue of abortion?": 59% of respondents said abortions should be legal in almost all cases or in some cases with restrictions, 28% said it should be legal in just a few cases and 12% said it should never be legal.
Idahoans United for Women and Families
Research & Findings in the Wake of Idaho’s Trigger Ban
Polling shows a majority of Idahoans support abortion access, while 12% think abortions "should never be legal"

The Coalition’s polling also shows that most Idahoans do not support criminalizing doctors for performing abortions.

“When presented with a battery of persons and organizations who might be involved in abortion decisions or setting policy around reproductive care, Idahoans ranked healthcare professionals like nurses and doctors the most trustworthy,” the Coalition’s report said.

Sixty three percent of Idahoans oppose felony charges against physicians and “21% strongly support a criminalization policy,” the report shows. Under current Idaho code, physicians who provide abortions outside of narrow exceptions can face up to 5 years in prison and risk losing their medical licenses.

I joined Boise State Public Radio in 2022 as the Canyon County reporter through Report for America, to report on the growing Latino community in Idaho. I am very invested in listening to people’s different perspectives and I am very grateful to those who are willing to share their stories with me. It’s a privilege and I do not take it for granted.