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Idaho Legal Aid

Staff Attorney Karen McCarthy takes a call at Idaho Legal Aid Services Inc. in Twin Falls in 2011. (DREW NASH/Times-News)

Idaho State Police respond to a domestic violence call every 88 minutes and more than 630 victims of domestic violence, primarily women, look for help each day from social programs in Idaho, according to data compiled by the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence and ISP.

The Violence Policy Center released a report Wednesday that nearly two out of every 100,000 Idaho women die at the hands of an abusive partner — the seventh highest rate in the nation.

Let that sink in for a minute.

It’s with statistics like these in our minds that we groaned when Idaho Legal Aid Services informed us that it will drastically reduce its representation for indigent battered women because of federal budget cuts. Hundreds of women, with nowhere else to turn, rely on the organization’s attorneys to win them legal protection.

But no more.

Did we mention 18 Idahoans died in 2011 after being beaten by their partner?

Idaho Legal Aid Services has for years relied on federal and state grants to fund its open-for-all legal service. The continued federal sequester cost theU.S. Department of Justice $20 million in grant funding that had been offered to organizations such as Idaho Legal Aid Services through the Violence Against Women Act. The organization’s federal funding ceases on Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Other federal funding for the program, through the Legal Services Corp., precipitously dropped more than $250,000 since 2010, said Jim Cook, ILAS’ executive director.

The organization’s attorneys represented 82 women in 2012 at its Twin Falls office alone. Another 475 local women were guided through finding private legal help that year.

When lawmakers faced the inconvenience of delayed airline flights earlier this year because of the sequester, they scurried to fix the issue. But victims of domestic violence aren’t getting such a reprieve.

Cook and his board of directors used one-day furloughs and other cost-cutting measures to make it this far. But, starting Tuesday, the organization’s level of representation of Idaho’s beaten, raped and trapped women will be a mere shadow of itself.

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Without these services, fewer women will have somewhere to turn, a hand to guide them through the complexities of the legal system.

The state and federal governments spent years in budgetary crises mode. Legislators in Washington are trapped in a battle that saw one U.S. senator stand at a podium for more than 21 hours this week, simply talking in order to delay a vote on a three-month budget bill.

The nation’s eyes are focused on the Affordable Care Act, the core of the partisan squabble. If a deal isn’t reached by Sept. 31, thousands of federal employees across the nation could be furloughed.

But Obamacare is serving as a distraction from the devastation leveled by the sequester and other budget cuts.

Apparently, helping our most helpless isn’t “essential.”

How sad.

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