Nelsen said he’s “embarrassed” and “offended others.”
“The way I phrased my statement about women and reproductive rights yesterday completely missed the mark,” Nelsen said in an emailed statement. “I am deeply sorry. I recognize the mistake and commit to doing better in the future.”
During the House Agricultural Affairs Committee’s first meeting of the legislative session, Nelsen said he’s a “lifelong dairy farmer,” who has “milked a few cows” and spends “most of my time walking behind lines of cows.”
“So if you want some ideas on repro (reproduction) and the women’s health thing, I have some definite opinions,” he said with a laugh.
The comment drew sharp rebuke on social media as well as national media attention.
“Let us be clear: Politicians like Jack Nelsen have no business mandating our reproductive health care decisions. Period,” the Idaho Democratic Party said in a tweet.
Nelsen is a music teacher and former county planning and zoning and water resource commissioner from the Magic Valley. Before defeating Democrat Karma Metzler Fitzgerald in one of Idaho’s few swing districts in November’s election, Nelsen campaigned on local control of water and schools and preserving agriculture land.
He also said during his campaign that the government shouldn’t involve itself in abortion care, distancing himself from fellow Idaho Republicans, who enacted a near-total ban on abortion.
In his apology, Nelsen said the women in his life have taught him “strength, resilience, integrity, hard work, joy and love.”
“I absolutely respect women and the right to choose their own health care,” he said. “I have always operated and will continue to operate under the standard that the government does not belong in the doctor’s office.”