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Planned Parenthood Idaho prepares for possible Supreme Court abortion ban

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George Prentice, Boise State Public Radio, Planned Parenthood
Thousands filled the Idaho Statehouse steps during a May 2022 pro-choice rally.

Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, Idaho State Director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, isn't holding back when describing the current state of abortion rights in Idaho.

“We are truly at a crisis moment for abortion access,” she said. “That said, we've been preparing for this moment for months, if not years.”

While the nation awaits a much-anticipated ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on the future of Roe vs. Wade, and just weeks before the Idaho Supreme Court hears arguments on an Idaho law that would outlaw most abortions, Delli-Carpini-Tolman said her colleagues have major concerns but remain focused and engaged.

“I just, I want to say that we are furious. We are energized. We are mobilized, and we are not backing down.”

DelliCarpini-Tolman visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the current state of abortion services in Idaho, how Planned Parenthood is strengthening its regional partners and how a growing number of Idaho companies are supporting abortion rights.

“It's imperative that we come together as a community and take care of each other and band together to fight back.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I’m George Prentice. Abortion is legal in Idaho. That said, there is Senate B,ill 1385 signed into law by the governor. It is the so-called trigger law which could take effect 30 days after… if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade. That is a known. But then there is the unknown… which is to say the now infamous leak of a memo that gives us some sense of how the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn Roe v Wade. Here to talk about that and more is Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, Idaho state director at Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. Mistie, good morning.

MISTIE DELLICARPINI-TOLMANN: Good morning, George. Thanks for having me.

PRENTICE: This morning, can you give us a sense of the level of anxiety or focus - or probably both - among your colleagues?

DELLICARPINI-TOLMAN: Yeah. So, I think that that the bottom line is that we are truly at a crisis moment for abortion access. Like you alluded to earlier, the court appears to be prepared to end the constitutional right to abortion, which will open the floodgates for states across the country to ban abortion. Idaho, obviously has not only SB1309 on the books, which is what the lawsuit is. SB1385 is the trailer bill that goes along with SB1309. But we also have a full trigger ban on the books, which means that 30 days after the Supreme Court's decision, all abortion would be outlawed in Idaho with very limited exceptions. So I think right now, among my colleagues, among our coalition partners and people who kind of work in repro in general, there are two things that are simultaneously true. One, this ruling will be devastating no matter what it is. There's a lot of conjecture out there that the leaked draft will not be the final decision that they land on. However, we know whatever it is, it's going to be bad, it's going to be devastating. And we're holding space for that. We're holding space with our practitioners. We're holding space with our colleagues who are on the ground advocating and with our patients and volunteers and activists and supporters to just acknowledge the devastation that we all collectively are feeling and that’s okay. Those are absolutely appropriate feelings to be having in the face of this impending Supreme Court decision. At the same time, I have to say that we are truly prepared for this moment. We've been preparing for months, if not years. We saw the writing on the wall and we are ready to help patients, even in a state as hostile as Idaho, get the care that they need out of state. Our commitment within Planned Parenthood and within our coalition partners to this work has never been stronger. If anything, this has just reinforced that need for us to be there helping our patients, and that's what we intend to do.

PRENTICE: I'm curious if you're seeing as many clients walking through your doors as before, or if there is some kind of chilling effect, if you will, given the current climate that may give potential patients some pause in seeking care?

DELLICARPINI-TOLMAN: We actually haven't seen a decline in patients coming. It's interesting, I think that the kind of conflicting laws that are moving through the courts right now at the same time become very confusing and hard to navigate, hard to understand. And I think that's intentional to make people confused and maybe think that abortion is not legal right now in the state of Idaho, but it is abortion is safe and legal in Idaho as of today. And so, if anything, I think that what we're seeing is people kind of seeing the writing on the wall and wanting to get in to get things, to get the care that they need while they can here in our in our clinics in Idaho.

PRENTICE: Can you give us…for a layperson… can you give us a thumbnail of Planned Parenthood’s suit against Idaho's trigger law? We understand that the Idaho Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in early August. How do you explain the suit to a layperson?

DELLICARPINI-TOLMAN: This last session, the Idaho legislature passed a Texas style vigilante six week ban that allows family members to spy on each other and report anybody who's had an abortion and then be able. To sue the provider, the medical provider for up to 20,000. It's a little bit different. There are some tweaks here and there that represent some differences between the Texas bill and Idaho's bill. But they're essentially, when it boils down to it, they are the same. They are meant to provide that chilling effect that you spoke of earlier, where providers, of course, cannot risk being sued $20,000 for any abortion that they might provide. And so in the face of 1309 becoming law, which there was an emergency clause, so it was set to become law on April 22nd. We, along with Dr. Gustafson and PFA, our National Federation, filed a lawsuit with the Idaho State Supreme Court to block the law, which they granted while the case moves through the court systems. So there's been some back and forth, some other motions filed, the state requesting that the stay be rejected and the lobby able to go into effect. In the meantime, the court, of course, rejected that. So right now that law is blocked and we are providing safe legal abortions in the state of Idaho. We just received word a few days ago that oral arguments have been set for August for that lawsuit against the state for SB 1309.

PRENTICE: And if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, can I assume that the suit still stays on track?

DELLICARPINI-TOLMAN: It does. It's kind of interesting how that interacts everything under our lawsuit for Senate Bill 1309 has to do with our state constitution and how our state constitution protects abortion in the protection of privacy under the First Amendment. So whether or not the Supreme Court. There's a there's a variety of outcomes that could happen with this decision. It could be a complete overturn of Roe. It could be just an upholding of Mississippi's 15-week ban. It could be a return to trap laws, targeted laws on abortion providers, targeted restrictions. So there's a variety of outcomes we're preparing for and having contingency plans for. But regardless of what happens there, our lawsuit with the Idaho State Supreme Court is based on the Idaho Constitution and the rights that are that exist within the Constitution to protect that constitutional right to have an abortion. Regardless of what happens in June, we will absolutely still be having our oral arguments and our lawsuit in August to protest against SB 1309.

PRENTICE: You had mentioned regional services, and the new reality is that there is a real possibility that Idahoans may need to travel out of state. What do you know about possible services, say, in Ontario, Oregon?

DELLICARPINI-TOLMAN: Yeah. So again, we've been seeing this coming, right? So we've we've been having meetings with bordering states who are very concerned about Idahoans. No affiliate is in this alone. We very much see ourselves as a web of protection for folks who need to access this constitutionally right or protected right to abortion. And that hasn't changed. Our commitment to the people of Idaho is that Planned Parenthood will always be here to help you get the care you need no matter what. And that might look a little bit different soon, right. We still provide a whole range of critical health care services outside of abortion, including things like birth control and emergency contraception, gender affirming hormone care, wellness visits, things like that. And then our health centers in Idaho will continue to provide those services in addition to providing any care that we can to those looking for for an abortion. So we've invested in our own patient navigator team so that we can stay really close to our patients and help guide them through what might become kind of a complex process of getting care out of state and connecting with abortion funds, and then also providing follow up care here in Idaho, where they live in community and and where they are supported. We are obviously in close communication with affiliates in bordering states. There's been news recently of a health center opening in Ontario, which I think is an incredible resource for Idahoans who can just drive across the border. That doesn't mean that it's without barriers. And I do have to say that barriers to accessing abortion and other health care services have always existed. You know, people have this idea of what somebody looks like who is seeking access to abortion care. And oftentimes it's not who you think it is. It's people who already have children. It's a variety of situations, very individualized situations. Bring somebody to this moment. So finding child care, taking time off work, navigating the costs of transportation and lodging associated with traveling hundreds or sometimes thousands of miles to be able to access health care. And what this decision means or could mean is that the number of people dealing with these obstacles who will be forced to literally flee their state to access the health care they need will skyrocket. I can't not point out that we know that black, Latino, indigenous and other people of color, as well as those in rural areas or people of lower incomes, always have and will continue to disproportionately feel the effects of abortion bans and restrictions, which is obviously a product of this country's legacy of racism and discrimination. I don't want to suggest that the path forward will be without obstacles and barriers. But what I do want to really, really drive home is that we are here. We are not going anywhere. We've been preparing for this. Like I said, investing in these patient navigation services. And if people need us, they should absolutely reach out because we can help them get that care they need wherever that ends up needing to be.

PRENTICE: I've got just a couple of minutes left, but I'd be remiss if I did not mention that a major Idaho employer, Chobani, has committed to cover transportation and lodging and childcare for employees and their dependents who may have to travel out of state to access health care, including abortion.

DELLICARPINI-TOLMAN: Yeah. That was incredible, incredible news of an employer supporting their patients in the face of such a hostile state. We're seeing other I saw an announcement from Amazon. We have some Amazon warehouses and factories here in the state. I've seen some smaller organizations and corporations pledge the same thing. And I think we're seeing people kind of come out of the woodwork realizing this crisis moment that we're in. So one of the really wild things for me is that the Supreme Court and these extremist lawmakers are actually acting in defiance of the public and their constituents. We know the public is on our side. We've seen the latest polling numbers even here in the state of Idaho. And yet we know this is an uphill battle. Right. It's taken us decades for the anti-abortion movement to get us in the situation we find ourselves in today. And so more than ever, it's imperative that we come together as a community and take care of each other and band together to fight back. And we've been incredibly inspired by the show of support for abortion rights that we've seen in Idaho since the draft opinion came out. I know you probably saw we held a rally on May 14th that brought out 5000 people to the state capitol to show support for abortion rights. And so I just I want to say that we are furious. We are energized. We are mobilized, and we are not backing down.

PRENTICE: Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman is Idaho State Director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. Thanks for giving us some time this morning.

DELLICARPINI-TOLMAN: Of course. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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