BOISE, Idaho – A Republican Idaho state senator yelled “abortion is murder” at a group of students who were pushing for birth control legislation at the Statehouse and now faces an ethics complaint after a post from an unverified Twitter account told them to discuss “killing babies” with a Democratic lawmaker.
Sen. Dan Foreman told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he has no plans to apologize and denied any ties to the social media account that purported to belong to him.
“I think the response was dead on and people can take exception to that — they’re welcome to their point of view — but I take abortion seriously. It’s murder,” Foreman said.
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, who led a “respectful workplace training” event for all lawmakers in January, apologized for the way the students were treated and said Foreman’s behaviour reflects on the Legislature.
“I told him it wasn’t an appropriate response; we need to conduct ourselves with much more dignity, civility and respect,” said Hill, a Republican. “I think he understands that I’m not very happy with how he conducted himself.”
About a dozen University of Idaho students from Foreman’s district in the city of Moscow had travelled nearly 300 miles (483 kilometres) for a scheduled meeting with him Monday. They planned to lobby for a Planned Parenthood-backed measure in the conservative state that would allow women to receive up to a 12-month supply of prescribed birth control and would promote better sex education on college campuses.
Foreman abruptly cancelled the meeting, and the students left a note and condoms in his office before heading to other meetings with lawmakers. He later passed the students in the hallway, and several recorded him shouting, “Abortion is murder.”
“I’m a Roman Catholic and a conservative Republican. I think what you guys are doing stinks,” Foreman says on the video.
The students were not at the Capitol to talk about abortion, said Paul Dillon, public affairs director of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho.
They were encouraging lawmakers to vote in favour of the birth control measure, and other meetings were peaceful, even if the lawmakers disagreed, Dillon said. He described Foreman as “completely unhinged.”
“Even if you disagree with what we have to say, there’s no excuse for that kind behaviour,” Dillon said. “He was being a bully.”
Later Monday, a tweet from the unverified Twitter account said someone in the group had a “wild outburst” at the meeting time and directed the students to “go talk about killing babies with Maryanne Jordan,” a Democratic senator. That prompted Jordan to file an ethics complaint against Foreman.
“It’s one thing to disagree with policy, it’s another thing to position something like that against another lawmaker,” Jordan said. “This type of behaviour is beneath the Idaho Senate.”
Ethics complaints against lawmakers are typically anonymous, so while Jordan confirmed she filed a complaint, she did not reveal many details. The Senate president said he could not speak about the complaint because of rules that dictate how ethics investigations are handled.
After the complaint was filed, the roughly year-old unverified Twitter account was deleted, then briefly reactivated to say it was not affiliated with Foreman and deleted again.
Foreman denied any involvement, and a message seeking comment with the account manager was not returned.
It’s not the first time Foreman has raised eyebrows for breaking decorum.
Earlier this year, Foreman stormed out of a committee meeting when the chairman didn’t allow him to argue a measure that wasn’t on the agenda.
Last year, body-camera video from a sheriff’s deputy showed Foreman swearing and shouting insults with an unseen and unidentified male on Sept. 14. The deputy asked Foreman to move along.
Foreman, 64, is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and retired Moscow police officer. He was narrowly elected to the Idaho Senate in 2016 in a surprise upset, ousting longtime Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt.
During his first legislative session, Foreman shocked both parties by backing a proposal that would have classified abortion as first-degree murder — for the woman and the doctor.
The measure never got a hearing. This year, Foreman has supported toughening Idaho’s abortion laws through a ballot initiative.