Mar 11, 2022 6 min read

Battle of the Bans

A photo illustration of two positive pregnancy tests crossed over red outlines of Idaho and Texas.
(Illustration by Valerie Osier)

This week, we cover the abortion ban in Idaho, proposed WA legislation that would require salary information in job listings, another PFAS contamination and more.

It’s time for Additional Context: a weekly look at news that was underreported, misunderstood, or could benefit from a little additional background. This week, we cover the abortion ban in Idaho, proposed WA legislation that would require salary information in job listings, another PFAS contamination and more.

Elissa | Last Thursday the Idaho Senate approved a ban on abortions after six weeks, following Texas’ lead. While the Idaho and Texas bills both passed their states’ Republican-dominated legislatures — and both contain the word “heartbeat” — they are not identical.

Idaho’s bill rewards extended family members, or the person who caused a pregnancy, with up to $20,000 for reporting an abortion performed after six weeks. Texas caps their reward at $10,000, yet allows any private citizen to snitch on a patient, provider, or person who aids or abets an abortion after six weeks.

While Texas’ ban allows no exception for survivors of rape or incest, Idaho does include an exemption. However, Idaho’s bill will require a person to have previously reported the sexual abuse to law enforcement or Child Protective Services. A doctor would need to see proof of an official report before providing an abortion.

Lisa Humes-Schulz, VP of policy and regulatory affairs for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Northwest, tells reporter Shefali Luthra of The 19th News:

“The vast majority of people don’t even report their rape or incest to the police.” So “while it is an exception on paper, in reality people really aren’t going to be able to access it.”

Let’s be real: This is an unrealistic hindrance, as is a state-mandated requirement in both bills that demands two ultrasound and “counseling” sessions (full of non-scientific, anti-choice propoganda) — spaced at least 24 hours apart — before an abortion can begin. These legal hoops are designed precisely to deter abortion at any stage.

This would likely require a person seeking a common healthcare procedure (abortion) to take up to three days off work, not including travel and recovery time. And who’s going to suffer most from this obstructionist red tape? You can probably guess: It will be lower-income workers and those who are already parents.

After Texas passed its abortion ban, online orders for self-managed abortion pills surged twelve-fold — over 1,000%. These state-level bans restrict access to reproductive healthcare, but the need for abortion remains unwaivering. Washington State writer Lindy West spoke to that fact in a 2019 piece for Literary Hub:

“The truth of abortion is that people need abortions and always will. You cannot legislate abortion out of existence—you can control only who has safe abortions and who has dangerous ones, who is considered a full person in the eyes of her government and who is a state-owned incubator, who is free and who is not.”
Diagram by Elissa Ball

More Idaho News

Elissa | But that’s not all, folks! Luke is cooking up an in-depth piece about Idaho’s rapid rise to ultra-conservative heights (yes, even more conservative). For now though, here’s a brief roundup of news items from the Gem State that caught our attention — and concern — this week:

While HB 666 (yeah, you read that correctly) passed Idaho’s House, it now appears to be stalled in the Senate. If you’re wondering, “Does this have something to do with homophobia?,” well, there’s a big clue is in this sentence from Clark Corbin at Idaho Capital Sun:

  • “During a public hearing over the bill last week, concerned parents who backed the bill said they objected to books that featured LGBTQ+ characters and storyline, which they said violated their children’s innocence and confused them.”
  • Last week Idaho House State Affairs Committee advanced HB 675, a bill that claims to be “RELATING TO GENITAL MUTILATION OF A CHILD” but would actually make it a felony for doctors to provide any type of gender-affirming healthcare to a minor. This includes puberty blockers and hormone-replacement therapy, two reversible treatments widely approved of by the medical community to prevent gender dysphoria and potential self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Parents who provide their transgender or gender nonconforming child with treatment such as a mastectomy or non-surgical care could also face up to life in prison.
  • HB 675 goes so far as to threaten felony charges for transporting a minor across state lines to seek such gender-affirming healthcare.
  • As Andrew Baertlein reports for KTVB7, Preston Thomson, an Idaho father of 15-year-old transgender daughter Lynn, testified against the bill, saying:

"It's kind of ironic, as Idaho claims to be pro-freedom, as they're trying to yank my rights as a father and my child's rights away."

A screenshot of HB 675 highlighting the portions that target transgender kids.
@ErinInTheMorn, Twitter

As of Thursday,Twitter buzz suggests HB 675 may not sail through the Senate with ease. Here’s hoping:

Tweet by Boise, ID, AP reporter Keith Ridler

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Salary Info in Job Listings: A Novel Concept

Valerie | Under a proposed bill, Washington employers with 15 or more employees would have to disclose the pay rate or salary range on job descriptions for open positions.

The legislation, SB 5716, passed through the House last week and the Senate in February. The Senate is reviewing slight changes, and if the bill passes it will go into effect in January.

Washington’s current law only requires employers to disclose the minimum wage or salary when an applicant asks for it and a job offer has been made to them.

This bill follows in the footsteps of Colorado, which passed a similar wage disclosure law that went into effect in January 2021. Though, an unintended consequence is that some businesses hiring remote workers would rather exclude an entire state of applicants from job listings than be transparent about pay.

A Reuters legal analysis article advising employers on remote worker pitfalls puts it this way, “However, another approach, if possible, may be to avoid hiring remote employees who reside in jurisdictions with especially protective laws.”

These laws represent an effort to improve pay equity issues that historically affect women and people of color more: When candidates don’t know the possible salary range for a job, they tend to lowball themselves when it comes time to negotiate a salary.

Read more details on the law from Lauren Rosenblatt at The Seattle Times.

PFAS Contaminate Wells Near Yakima

Elissa | Another week, another story about PFAS, the “forever chemicals” responsible for drinking water contamination in Airway Heights.

Emily Goodell of YakTriNews reports that the U.S. Army tested 108 private wells near the Yakima Training Center and found 38 of those wells (serving at least 56 homes) had high concentrations of PFAS. Like Airway Heights, the chemical culprit in Yakima is also a now-banned firefighting foam.

The Army will offer affected residents bottled water delivery until they can make more permanent fixes.

Says It All

"We need to do this now. …They have violated our rights. Starbucks is pushing. REI is pushing. This is something we need to push on now because the conversation’s going on already."

—Joseph Fink, Amazon employee and union member, quoted in Lauren Rosenblatt’s Seattle Times piece, “New kind of union forming at Seattle Amazon Fresh stores: It all started at the hot-food bar”

Good News, as a Treat Meal

Elissa | There is such a thing as a free lunch. Governor Jay Inslee has signed into law HB 1878, legislation sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane that expands eligibility for students to receive free meals at school.

According to Albert James at The Spokesman-Review:

“Previously, middle and elementary schools with at least 62.5% of students eligible were required by the state to participate in the free meal program. The bill signed into law lowers that threshold to 40% and expands the program to public schools serving all grades.”

Certain tribal and charter schools are also included in the new mandate. The bill’s passage means 3-to-5,000 more Spokane Public School students can now access free meals, doubling the amount of current benefit recipients.  
There’s more! Gov. Inslee also signed legislation into law that caps insulin charges at $35 for a one-month supply. The new law goes into effect January of 2023 and builds upon a 2020 WA State law that capped monthly out-of-pocket insulin expenses at $100.

Have a good weekend, folks!

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