Dear Sen. Dan Foreman:
Hopefully you remember us. On Feb. 19, we traveled 300 miles through the snow to meet with our representatives, including you, at the Capitol in Boise. We are Planned Parenthood Generation Action at the University of Idaho. As students affiliated with Planned Parenthood Of Greater Washington and North Idaho, we advocate for the continuation of birth control coverage and comprehensive sex education. We work to ensure U of I students have knowledge on consent and access to contraceptives.
As student constituents advocating for policies that impact us and learning the inner workings of government, we take our responsibility to participate in the process of representative democracy seriously.
In case you don’t remember the details of the day exactly, here’s what happened: We originally had a 9 a.m. meeting scheduled with you. After we arrived at your office, you abruptly canceled. We had hoped to speak with you about comprehensive sex education and S.B. 1281, a bill that would provide women with 12 months of birth control at a time.
After a meeting with another Republican senator – who was cordial even though we disagreed – we ran into you in the hallway. Immediately after introducing ourselves, you began yelling.
It seemed like you didn’t really hear what we had to say, so we thought we’d send you this letter. S.B.1281 would significantly reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies. This bill should not be controversial; birth control is basic health care, and it should be treated as such. Like the rest of the country, we believe health care is a basic human right.
Not all citizens, especially those from rural communities or low-income households, who have to travel long distances or take time away from multiple jobs, can refill their prescription every month. For an oral contraceptive to be fully effective, a pill must be taken daily at a set time. If a woman misses her pill or takes it at the wrong time, she runs the risk of an unintended pregnancy. No matter their political affiliation, Idaho women want easier access to birth control. That’s why we came to talk to you.
Idaho’s sex education bill has not been updated since the 1970s. Idaho does not require sex education in schools to be medically accurate, evidence-based or inclusive. It also does not address consent, which is especially important to us in light of the #MeToo movement and widely known campus sexual assault problems nationwide. Idaho state law (see Idaho Statute §33-1608) does not require sex education to be a part of school curriculum at all. This fails our students since education is the first step in preventative health care and helps young people stay safe, make healthy decisions and carve out bright futures.
Legislators have the responsibility to listen to their constituents. Period. Elected officials should encourage and welcome feedback from the people they represent – especially youth. Like politicians waving off the cries for change around gun control coming from youth, Sen. Foreman, you sent a clear message discouraging political participation from us. This is indefensible.
We were participating in the democratic process and we were aggressively shut down. We are constituents; we should be heard and treated with respect, no matter the personal views of our representatives. Our legislators should be model citizens and our experience at the State Capitol building showed us that this is not the case. Sen. Foreman, we demand you apologize for failing us, your constituents, and hope you hear us now.
This is our future, our health care, our rights. We are the future of Idaho and we will never be silenced. We will continue to fight for the basic health care rights of all Idahoans, so we hope you’re prepared to listen next time we schedule a meeting.
Emily Carter is president and Dawn Amos a member of the University Of Idaho Planned Parenthood Generation Action, and wrote this on the group’s behalf.