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New report shows 'dramatic exodus' of Idaho OBGYNs since repeal of Roe v. Wade

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A new report shows Idaho has lost 22% of its OBGYNs since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022 – that's more than 1 in 5.

“The net supply of obstetricians practicing obstetrics in Idaho went down between 40 and 60 doctors in the 15-month period between August 2022 and November 2023,” the report said, “from 268 to about 210 providers for ~962,000 Idaho women.”

In that time period, two OBGYNs moved to Idaho. The report also shows that half of Idaho’s 44 counties do not have practicing obstetricians.

The Idaho Physician Well-Being Action Collaborative partnered with the Idaho Coalition for Safe Health Care on the analysis. The study focused on OBGYNs and did not include midwives or family doctors. In a press release, the Collaborative said these statistics “should concern every person living in or considering a move to Idaho.”

Valley County Family care obstetrician and Coalition board president Caitlin Gustafson said while not all departures are necessarily a response to the bans, the dramatic and sudden decrease in physicians can only be attributed to the state’s restrictive abortion laws.

“What we're seeing in this report and with this exodus of providers is that now Idaho is a state that criminalizes physicians, and the chilling effect is real,” she said.

Under Idaho code, physicians risk losing their licenses and can face up to five years in prison for providing abortions that do not fall under the laws’ limited exceptions. Doctors have said the scope of the bans are unclear, which has created confusion on what care they can and can’t provide patients.

Gustafson said as Idaho's population increases, its physician population should as well. Instead, she says the state is in crisis.

“When you have to make that choice to come to a state where there are laws in effect that could negatively impact your practice, you will often choose to go to another state where you don't have to weigh the law in the essential health care that you provide,” she said.

The report also highlights that Idaho is in the 10th percentile of maternal pregnancy outcomes.

“This means that 90% of the United States has better maternal pregnancy outcomes than Idaho,” Gustafson said.

She added that the decline in OBGYNS will affect rural communities the most as the state is already struggling to retain and recruit doctors. A significantly diminished workforce means patients who are not seeking abortion care will be negatively impacted too, Gustafson said.

“The effect ripples across the entire spectrum of maternal care and the health care system as a whole,” she added.

The report also noted that Idaho saw the closure of two hospitals’ obstetrics programs, one in Sandpoint and the other in Emmett, in the 15 months since its bans went into effect.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.

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