The Cold War between WA and neighbor Idaho gets hotter

As America seems to be splitting along partisan lines things are heating up. Idaho is adjacent to Washington state.

Danny Westneat  – Seattle Times columnist

“It’s hard to believe, but Washington and Idaho used to be friends.

In fact if you go back far enough, Idaho was a part of Washington. It was the Washington territorial Legislature, back in the 1860s, that created and funded the city of Boise — which went on to become Idaho’s capital.

Now the two neighbors aren’t just behaving like blue-red competitors, but like West and East Berlin.

Tensions are high enough that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently wrote to Idaho Gov. Brad Little, arguing that the state’s most-extreme-in-the-nation abortion laws are turning Idaho into a no-go zone.

“I fear that our residents, in particular the women and girls of Washington, will be in grave danger if they travel to your state and find themselves in need of urgent reproductive health care services,” Inslee wrote.

Inslee took the unusual step of demanding Little veto a bill that makes it a felony to take a minor under 18 across the Washington-Idaho border for an abortion, without the parents’ express permission.

He also evoked, again, how Washington is serving as civilization to Idaho’s Old West. He referenced how Washington had to take more than 2,000 Idaho COVID-19 patients back when hospitals there were overwhelmed with unvaccinated patients, and so were rationing medical care.

“As we did during COVID, we will care for your residents in a manner consistent with their health needs, as determined by trained medical professionals, not politicians,” Inslee said.

Oh yeah? The next day, Little ignored Inslee and signed the bill. Little has now clapped back: “It is hard to imagine why someone would leave Idaho for Washington when your state is home to sky-high taxes, crime and public encampments.”

It’s not that hard to imagine — maybe talk to a broader cross-section of Idaho women? Nearly 80% of patients at Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Pullman, in Eastern Washington, came over from Idaho in recent months. Last fall I wrote about an Idaho patient who was desperate enough to get out of there for an abortion that she took a 315-mile, $1,200 cab ride to a clinic in Bend, Ore.

The attorney general of Idaho raised the stakes on all this, issuing an opinion that it’s illegal for doctors there to even suggest to their patients that they go to Washington, or other states, for abortions. 

This “impedes my right to speak to and counsel my patients,” a gynecologist in McCall, Caitlin Gustafson, said in a lawsuit this month, after which Idaho seemed to back away from this hard-line stance.

The net effect though is there’s now an underground railroad of sorts between the two states, except it’s for women’s reproductive care. Last week the White House, alarmed by the Idaho-Washington tensions and the prospect that women might get caught in a dragnet, proposed a new federal rule that would block state officials from accessing the medical records of patients who leave their home states for care.

These friction points are probably going to get more intense. Take the past week or so and another issue, that of guns.

Washington state Democrats banned the sale of assault weapons. Meanwhile, in Bonneville County, Idaho, Republicans held a perverse “Lincoln Day” fundraiser, at which they auctioned off assault rifles as well as a “Trigger Time” event at the shooting range with Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two protesters during the summer of 2020 in Wisconsin.”

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