Right to Life of Idaho distances itself from recent anti-abortion proposals

Updated Jan. 31

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

In Idaho, two similar proposals are generating chatter: One from freshman Sen. Dan Foreman that would classify abortion as first-degree murder, and a petition circulating that would do the same. Both would open the door for charging doctors and women with murder for providing or seeking an abortion.

But neither has the backing of one of the state’s most influential anti-abortion organizations.

Right to Life of Idaho does not support any action that would criminalize women for abortion, said Kerry Uhlenkott, legislative coordinator for Right to Life of Idaho.

“Subjecting women to criminal penalties for an abortion is inconsistent with the historic pro-life position,” Right to Life of Idaho said in a statement sent to Idaho Reports. “We have never supported legislation containing criminal penalties for women. We stand with women and men to offer them realistic alternatives to abortion.”

Abolish Abortion Idaho responded to RTLI’s opposition with two statements: One addressing whether most women are coerced into abortion, and one addressing whether women who seek abortions should be exempt from murder charges.  You can read both on AAI’s website.

Read RTLI’s full statement below.

“Right to Life of Idaho does not support any legislative action that would subject women to criminal penalties for an abortion.

Based on our experience and the experience of our 19 Idaho Pregnancy Care Centers and hearing the stories of thousands of post-abortive women and couples, we are convinced that abortion is most often a tragically desperate act. Available research indicates that coercion is often a factor in over 64% of the cases when women experience abortion. Despite rhetoric from advocates of abortion on demand, abortion is most often NOT freely chosen by women. Many woman come to deeply regret the loss of their child to abortion.

Subjecting women to criminal penalties for an abortion is inconsistent with the historic pro-life position. We have never supported legislation containing criminal penalties for women. We stand with women and men to offer them realistic alternatives to abortion. We stand with our Pregnancy Care Centers that daily provide compassion and hope to women who consider abortion in a moment of desperation.”


Who lost the most on Thursday? District 1 constituents.



In the hours after Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, was stripped of her legislative committee assignments, some Idaho conservatives are unhappy with the move.

Scott lost her committee assignments after being accused of publicly saying women lawmakers get leadership positions only if they “spread their legs.” (Read more, via Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review, and Kimberlee Kruesi of the Associated Press.) And regardless of whether people blame Scott or House leadership, District 1 constituents has one fewer voice in legislative committees to represent their interests.

Some of those constituents are criticizing House Speaker Scott Bedke, not Rep. Scott.

“With the action of Speaker Bedke today 55,000 citizens have lost their voice in the Idaho legislature,” wrote Victoria Zeischegg, president of Bonner County Republican Women Inc., in an e-mail to House members on Thursday afternoon. “I would like to know by what authority Speaker Bedke has the right to remove Rep. Heather Scott from all of her committees, and why has he not explained his actions?”

“We are a representative government and it sickens me to think you need to be reminded of that,” Zeischegg continued. “I strongly urge you to return Heather to her committees and give us our voice back.”

“I can barely contain my fury at the actions off Speaker Bedke today,” wrote Anita Aurit in another e-mail to legislators. “An entire district of voters have lost their voice in the Idaho legislature and I would like to knew, in detail, the reasoning and more importantly, the facts regarding this travesty.”

 “Every citizen in Heather Scott’s district is due a detailed and complete explanation of the reason for this action, facts, not lies, innuendos or the less than reliable “reporting” of the not the  mainstream press),” Aurit wrote.

Though Scott will no longer serve on legislative committees, she is still able to vote and debate on the House floor, as well as propose legislation.

Whether or not committee chairmen will hear that legislation, however, is another issue — particularly the women who were the targets of Scott’s alleged remarks.

As to whether Bedke has the power to do this: He does.

Scott, Zeischegg and Aurit couldn’t be reached for comment. (We’ll update if that changes.)

North Idaho conservatives weren’t alone in their displeasure. In an e-mail sent to all House members, Maria Nate of Rexburg blasted lawmakers for not standing up for Scott on the House floor.

“I am disgusted and dismayed at the removal of Heather Scott from her committee assignments. I am even more dismayed that only one person rose to object to such a power move by Speaker Bedke,” Nate wrote in an e-mail sent just before noon on Thursday. “Apparently in the Idaho Legislature it is ok to commit adultery but it is not ok to talk about it. Time to drain the swamp.”

Maria Nate is the wife of Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg. On Thursday, Rep. Nate attempted to object to Scott being taken off her three committees. When contacted for comment by Idaho Reports, Maria Nate said she had nothing to add to her e-mail remarks.

In late 2016, Reps. Nate and Scott launched growingfreedomidaho.com, which features a conservative legislative agenda and links to e-mail committee members. As bills get introduced, the site will offer conservative policy and impact analysis. 

In a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday afternoon, Scott theorized the timing of the scandal breaking in the news was no accident.

” It is probably no coincidence that the latest ‘stir’ from within the catacombs of ‘leadership’ comes on the heels of the recently published freedom website helping citizens to keep better tabs on legislation and legislators called www.growingfreedomforidaho.com,” she wrote.

Scott’s various controversies are well-documented, and other conservative Republicans have told reporters they disagree with her tactics and actions. “We’re here to solve problems, not create problems,” said Rep. Eric Redman R-Athol, in an interview with Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review. “A lot of areas we agree on, but you’re still part of the body. I think that’s very important. We can express our disagreements but not be belligerent.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke told Russell he wouldn’t comment on Thursday’s actions, other than to say it was the most difficult decision he’s made so far as speaker. 


What’s on your mind?

Idaho Reports wants to hear from you. What would you like lawmakers to focus on during the 2017 legislative session? Whether it’s school funding, taxes, economic development, social issues or more, let us know in a short video.

Record your message to lawmakers and upload it to YouTube. Send the link to melissa.davlin@idahoptv.org with the subject “Message To Lawmakers” by noon Thursday, Jan. 5, and we might feature your video on the Jan. 6 episode of Idaho Reports. Include your full name, town where you live, and phone number. We won’t share your number with anyone, but we may call in case we have any questions. 

We reserve the right to edit any videos we choose to air for clarity or length. 

Wondering about format? Here’s an example of what works:



What’s new at Idaho Reports


Idaho Reports returns on January 6, with hour-long episodes through the end of the 2017 legislative session.


In the last twelve months, we’ve focused on connecting the policies made at the statehouse in Boise with rural communities throughout Idaho. Our 2017 season will be no different. We’ll continue to bring interviews and commentary with the state’s political insiders, while spotlighting the Idaho citizens and towns affected by those decisions. While we’ll take a hard look at the Legislature’s 2017 priorities, we’ll also examine what is important to Idahoans, regardless of whether it’s being discussed in the Capitol. We’re currently looking into issues regarding transportation, health care, mental health, the economy, and education. Watch for updates.

On January 9, Idaho Public Television will air Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s State of the State address live, with Idaho Reports providing commentary and analysis immediately following the speech.


Idaho Reports Associate Producer Nishant Mohan

We have a new associate producer, Nishant Mohan. Mohan is a journalism student at the University of Idaho. He has worked for the Idaho Statesman, the Idaho Press Tribune, Idaho Public Radio, and the University of Idaho Argonaut. Follow Mohan on Twitter: @nishantrmohan.

If you’re not already connected with us on social media, you can follow us: @IdahoReports, @davlinnews, and @aaronkunz. You can also find us on Facebook. 

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, electors Rod Beck, Skip Smyser, Caleb Lakey, and Jennifer Locke, and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter wait for noon, when electors cast their votes. Photo by Seth Ogilvie/Idaho Public Television

Photo gallery: Idaho’s electors cast their votes for Trump

On Monday, Idaho’s four electors met at the statehouse and cast their votes for Donald J. Trump and Michael Pence. As Trump supporters and protesters observed, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney explained the process and counted the votes. Here are images from the event.


Protesters line the hall leading to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s office before Idaho’s electors cast their votes on Dec. 19. Photo by Seth Ogilvie/Idaho Public Television


Elector Rod Beck prepares to cast his vote for Donald Trump. Photo by Seth Ogilvie/Idaho Public Television


Electors Skip Smyser, Caleb Lakey and Jennifer Locke wait for the noon vote. Photo by Seth Ogilvie/Idaho Public Television

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School administrators director: On evaluations, timing matters

By Seth Ogilvie

One education professional is expressing frustration with a State Department of Education audit on teacher evaluations — and the perception that school districts erred in those evaluations.

As first reported by Idaho Education News, in July,  Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra received an audit from the consulting group McREL International that said that 99% of the Idaho teacher evaluations they reviewed were incomplete.

But the timeline of the audit and evaluations disproves that assessment, said Rob Winslow, executive director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators.

The McREL audit reviewed teacher evaluations completed in the 2014-15 school year. The legislation implementing the career ladder, which mandates the audits of the evaluations, didn’t go into effect until July 2015, well after those evaluations were completed.

“The release date of this report has caused confusion,” Ybarra wrote in a memo to school districts. “This audit was never intended to be an ‘I gotcha’ of Idaho educators.”

But the news, and its nuance, comes just weeks before the Idaho Legislature convenes its 2017 session, and that could have implications for districts.

“It’s a mess now (for) PR, image,” Winslow said. “I think it is damaging. We’re trying to get $58 million for teachers, and this just erodes that confidence. ”

The report states: “Of particular importance was information associated with the use of the Charlotte Danielson Framework.” (Read the full report on the Idaho Education News website.)

The Danielson group website explains that framework as “a research-based set of components of instruction, aligned to the INTASC standards, and grounded in a constructivist view of learning and teaching.”

The problem: School districts in Idaho create their own evaluation systems. They follow the rules and statute created by the state and then submit those plans to state education department.

The code doesn’t require the direct adoption of the Danielson teacher evaluation framework, but that is what McREL evaluated. “Only 1% of the districts are similar to the original model.” Winslow said “Who cares? You didn’t have to be.”

Those evaluation plans vary: Some have three ratings. Some have four. Some are very close to the Danielson teacher evaluation framework, but many aren’t.

“You want to see an audit based on what they should be doing, not on something they shouldn’t be doing,” Winslow said. “So the way they hired them to do the audit, in my opinion, the way they set up the audit, was in a way to ensure the districts would be out of compliance. They got the result they were looking for.”

“It’s irresponsible to pay someone $100,000 or whatever they paid them,” and then not show anyone the audit, Winslow added.

According to Jeff Church, communications director for the State Department of Education, McREL received $112,291 for the audit.

Church said the audit was required by House Bill 296, the 2015 legislation that set up the career ladder. The language in the legislation does instruct an annual audit of teaching evaluations on randomly selected school districts.

The audit “was intended to provide clarity during the roll out of the Career Ladder,” Ybarra wrote in a memo to school districts.

So why evaluate the districts on the Danielson framework? That direction came from July 2015 recommendations from the Professional Evaluation Review Committee.  The committee, made of 14 education professionals from throughout the state, said the framework “is resource intensive — hence one reason it is recognized as a valuable tool for professional growth and can be used for personnel reasons.” Those recommendations came from the committee came after the 2014-15 school year ended — the year McREL audited.

Winslow still questions why the audit was done in this way. Beyond the optics and the public relations issues, Winslow doesn’t think districts or the state will learn much from the report.

“I think the last thing (Ybarra) was trying to do was hurt districts,” Winslow said. “That’s not in her profile.”

But, he said, the state needs to get its auditing process right so it accurately reflects the process, adding he fears Ybarra “just hurt the profession.”

“Please don’t screw this up,” Winslow said. “We get many more of these, the whole career ladder starts to get questionable.”

Melissa Davlin contributed to this report.