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A Local Champion

This was a bit surprising though not totally unexpected. Eighteen years is a long time especially given the intensity of an organization like the ACLU.

The newspaper photograph bearing his likeness marks the day in 1990 that then-Gov. Cecil Andrus vetoed a bill that would have created the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

It was the same year Van Valkenburgh helped open the American Civil Liberties Union office in Idaho. He had been working as a city prosecutor.

Jack’s beginning tenure at the ACLU is about the time I met him. I was volunteering at the Idaho Hunger Action Council and his office was in the same building at 9th & Idaho, across from where The Mode was at one time….. awhile ago.

And, he has this absolutely correct!

“After all of it, the winter of 1990 was the most intense legislative period I’ve ever been a part of,” Van Valkenburgh said. “It was a very emotional time, and I credit it with helping the Democrats gain power and the Republicans learn a lesson. I don’t think they are as apt to engage in terrifically controversial moral legislation as they were prior to 1990.”

In the late ’80s (1988 or so) into the early ’90s, I was heavily involved in local politics even going to watch the legislature a few times a week. I volunteered heavily for Mike Burkett’s campaign in 1988 when he was running against Jim Risch – winning btw. Also spent a great deal of time volunteering for paper cuts with Sue Reents’ campaign. Ah….the ole’ days. A close friend was campaign director for Sally Beitia, who ran for a seat in District 15. The kids loved it because they could help us with signs and such. We just learned to hate answering the phone. Thankfully, that was before the days of cell phones.

However, the primary issue was abortion rights – rights to medical care. There was a women’s medical clinic on Garden Street that was picketed so frequently that a call went out for escorts that would be willing to help with providing women (and those who accompanied them) access to the clinic, as the driveway was being blocked and/or drivers of vehicles were being harassed. Picketers stood in front of the cars & driveway, yelling, waving the signs – doing all the things picketers do until eventually it was determined that they were to stay across the street from the clinic. The clinic, of course, was not an “abortion factory.” It was a health clinic that provided health care services to women which ran the gamut from physical exams, pap smears, pregnancy testing, etc. , and it also did provide for termination of a pregnancy.

There were times it became incredibly intense, almost volatile. One of the most enlightening moments was a young couple in their late 20’s who had three children, the youngest who was 10 or 11 months, with the other two children not being any older than 5. They had reached a decision to terminate the pregnancy and had come all the way to Boise from some mid-point in Oregon so ‘no one would know.’ Their reasoning was also based on their being ‘Christian.’ They did, in fact, tell us that they had been to protests of women’s clinics. It was the husband who was freaked out by the protesters; he was overwhelmed by the intensity of animosity.

As for the bill, Jack referenced, I can remember sitting in the gallery at the Capitol listening to the arguments, and later as the vote count was taken on the bill Jack mentioned. It wasn’t tight, but it was certainly close, and it was a disappointment. Thankfully, Gov. Andrus vetoed it. One thing I did gain was an appreciation of people’s opinions – at least for a time. Ruby Stone was a legislator in District 17 who although Republican was someone we classified as ‘pro-choice.’ Going from house-to-house on Sally’s campaign, and again when getting signatures to put the abortion initiative on the ballot for the people to decide, what it boiled down to was the rights of the individual versus that of state. Privacy versus government intervention or intrusion. (I mention Ruby because of conversations we had in which I’m pretty sure some stereotypes were smashed.)

I don’t think Boise can thank Jack Van Valkenburgh enough for his contributions to this community. Cherie Buckner-Webb and I were talking ‘just the other day’ about that 1990 battle and Jack’s name came up. {We were reminiscing about the days when I worked for John Glazer at Planned Parenthood of Idaho; Cherie was board president.} I know that when I think of the progressive community in Boise, Jack has been an integral component.

I wish him the best in whatever he chooses to do along whatever path he will walk.


One of the campaigns alive during that time was “Freedom Means Choice.” Out of curiosity I googled the phrase and came up with this:


To everything a time and season……


4 Responses

  1. […] Left Side of the Moon wrote an interesting post today on A Local ChampionHere’s a quick excerptIn the late ’80s (1988 or so) into the early ’90s, I was heavily involved in local politics even going to watch the legislature a few times a week…. […]

  2. Local champions are good! I was just thinking the same thing…

    A tidbit for you…

  3. Either my comment got swallowed or akismet thinks I’m spam. 😆

    Was thinking about local heroes just a moment ago…
    They are goodness.

    Have a tidbit for you:

    Maybe the link is causing my comment to require moderation. That’s OK. I’m patient…

  4. It did, Jump. I always check because Rich’s always get stuck in the spam basket. Something to do with “big cynic”. ??

    That’s a wonderful piece!

    My mother, Miriam A. Solomon, died on January 20, which happened to be the seventh anniversary of the inauguration of a man and a presidential regime that she loathed

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