Updated: Wednesday 9 a.m.
By Hailey Stewart and Brandon Hill
When Ashley Ayala, Emily Carter and other group members of the Planned Parenthood Generation Action group organized their visit to the Idaho State Capitol, they planned on attending a full day of meetings.
Instead, they made national headlines.
Carter, the president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at University of Idaho, said the group fights for reproductive justice on college campuses. At UI, the group focuses on sex education, including options for contraception.
This year, Carter said Generation Action will focus on lobbying for birth control coverage through university insurance, specifically UI’s Student Health Insurance Program (SHIP).
Monday marked Planned Parenthood Lobby Day across the nation. Generation Action took part by visiting North Idaho lawmakers in Boise during the legislative session.
The group of 12 spoke on behalf of the 12 Months of Birth Control legislation. The bill, backed by Planned Parenthood, would require health insurance to cover the cost of one year’s worth of birth control, rather than covering month-by-month refills.
“That was the goal — to talk to our representatives and see if they would support it,” Carter said. “As their constituents, this is something we care about.”
Ayala said the group originally planned to meet with North Idaho lawmakers Sen. Dan Foreman of Moscow and Sen. Bob Nonini of Coeur d’Alene.
The group met with Nonini earlier in the day. Foreman, however, abruptly canceled the meeting Monday morning, Carter said.
“We were confused because we didn’t know why the meeting was canceled,” Carter said. “But, no one was mad — we figured we would try to speak with him later in the day.”
Generation Action waited outside Foreman’s office in the Capitol hallway, hoping to speak with the senator between meetings.
Before their next meeting, the group left a note for Foreman.
“After we have a meeting with a senator, we are supposed to write thank you notes. So, we wrote a note to (Foreman) with what we wish we could have spoken about,” Carter said.
The note was written on poster paper with a Planned Parenthood button and a condom attached.
“It basically said you’re not doing your job because you wouldn’t speak with your constituents,” Ayala said. “And we highlighted what we wanted to talk about since he missed our meeting.”
The poster outlined the 12 Months of Birth Control legislation and other sex education statistics.
“This is important because consistent use of birth control is the best way to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortion. Birth control is healthcare,” the note read.
Later that day, Foreman passed the group in the hallway. A video recording by one of the Generation Action members showed Foreman shouting, “Abortion is murder. I stand against it.”
“I am a Roman Catholic. I am a conservative Republican. I think what you guys do stinks,” Foreman says in the video footage obtained by The Argonaut.
Ayala said the goal of meeting Foreman in the hallway was to give him a folder with information about the bill and sex education.
“As constituents, we thought (Foreman) would take the time to talk with us,” Ayala said. Because of our pink shirts, he made the decision not to speak with us. Representatives should listen no matter what.”
Foreman did not return multiple Argonaut requests for comment. Tuesday, he told the Associated Press he has no plans to apologize and that his “response was dead on.”
Generation Action’s other meetings for the day did not produce the same outcome, Carter said.
Although their discourse with Bob Nonini was civil, Carter said, Nonini waved around rosary beads and talked about abstinence rather than contraceptive alternatives.
“It was a little strange and definitely interesting,” Ayala said. “But, he didn’t shut us down and he actually listened to what we were saying.”
Paul Dillon, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, said he was pleased with the way Nonini handled the meeting, even after the senator asked how many of the present students were Catholic.
“The meeting continued with him actually taking the time to look up where the bills were, telling the students how impressed he was with their preparation and stories and thanking us for our time,” Dillon said. “While we disagreed, he handled it like a fairly normal meeting compared to what followed.”
Foreman was also videoed last year in a confrontation with another constituent. He was recorded by a Latah County Sheriff Department bodycam. The video showed Foreman swearing and shouting at unidentified male Sept. 14.
Ayala said she felt disillusioned after the day’s events. But, she said she is ready to get back to work, educating UI students about sexual health and rights.
Dillon said he was encouraged by the young members of the group.
“We work on a legislative agenda because policy matters,” Dillon said. “Youth advocating for policies that impact them provides an opportunity to learn the inner workings of government and make a better world.”
Hailey Stewart and Brandon Hill can be reached at email@example.com
The Argonaut will continue to cover this story.