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The latest on abortion and reproductive rights in Idaho

On June 24,2022 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned protections from the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade that ensured a pregnant woman's right to choose to have an abortion. This effectively returned abortion regulations over to individual states. So what changed in Idaho?
Anti-abortion protesters demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Anti-abortion protesters demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Nearly all abortions in Idaho are illegal

Idaho's trigger law from 2020 went into effect on August 25, 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its final judgment in the case that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Here are the main components of Idaho's trigger law:

  1. Abortions in Idaho are banned, except for cases of rape, incest and if the mother's life is at risk.
  2. In instances of rape or incest, a woman would need to report the crime to police and provide a copy of the criminal report to an abortion provider to undergo the procedure. However, it would only be allowed during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  3. Doctors performing illegal abortions would face two to five years in prison under the new law. Their state medical license would also be initially suspended for the first violation and revoked upon a second offense.

On June 27, 2022, a regional arm of Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state of Idaho to block its pending trigger law.

The abortion rights group said in court filings that the 2020 law violated the Idaho Constitution in several ways, including discriminating against women.

Most recent news stories:

Where can Idahoans get abortions now?

Prior to Idaho's abortion ban, the state had three clinics that provided abortions – all in the southern part of the state.

With the implementation of Idaho’s trigger law, the closest provider for those who live in or near Boise is in Ontario, Oregon – about a 56-mile trip one way.

The clinic in Ontario offers medication abortions – the two-pill combination of mifepristone and misoprostol that can be taken to end a pregnancy up to 11 weeks – and in-clinic, surgical abortions, according to Kristi Scdoris, Director of Marketing and Communications for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, which operates the clinic.

Other neighboring providers for in-clinic abortions are in Kennewick, Washington or Bend, Oregon.

Oregon law requires anyone under the age of 15 to get parental consent prior to receiving medical treatment. Meanwhile, Washington has no such age restrictions.

Planned Parenthood consolidated its Boise and Meridian locations in June 2022. As of June 2023, the Planned Parenthood on Franklin Road in Meridian is listed as open for sexual health and hormone therapy for transgender people.

A new study from the Society for Family Planning noted a sizable average monthly drop of nearly 5,400 abortions nationwide, but they are heavily concentrated in states with abortion bans.

As abortion rates have dropped in Idaho, they rose in neighboring Washington and Oregon, with an average monthly rise of 138 and 132 abortions respectively.

How many Idahoans are getting abortions?

Of the roughly 382,000 women of reproductive age in Idaho, 1,027 people had abortions in the state in 2022, according to the most recent data available from state health officials. That’s 526 fewer abortions performed in Idaho compared to 2021.

The latest data shows a significant difference in where these women obtain an abortion, though.

Of the 1,985 total abortions obtained by Idaho residents in 2021, 531 of them were performed outside of the state. That’s nearly 100 more out-of-state abortions than were performed the prior year.

Healthcare providers in Washington, where there are no age restrictions requiring parental consent for medical care, facilitated or performed the vast majority of these abortions. Washington will no longer share their numbers withIdaho because of their shield law.

The women most likely to seek an abortion were between the ages of 20-24, weren’t married and had never undergone the procedure before.

Eighty-five percent of them occurred prior to 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Idaho's "abortion trafficking" law

In April 2023, Gov. Brad Little signed a bill that would make it a crime to help a minor get an abortion without their parent's consent. The law also applies to someone who obtains abortion pills for a minor in Idaho unbeknownst to their parents.

If convicted, a person could spend between two to five years in prison. While parental consent is an allowable defense, it would still be possible for a person to be charged and have to defend themselves in court.

What are Idaho's maternal health care workers doing?

Two rural Idaho hospitals have also announced they will no longer deliver babies. As reported by the Idaho Capital Sun, Valor Health in Emmett and Bonner General Health in Sandpoint made the announcements this year. Valor Health said in its announcement there is a shortage of staff and nurses who can deliver babies and Bonner General said the hospital could no longer safely provide the services due to a lack of pediatricians, fewer patients delivering babies there and financial limitations.

West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell said as of April 1, 2024, it will no longer be providing birth services and closing the neonatal intensive care unit because of lack of demand. The Idaho Statesman reports the closure was alluded to in a report by the Idaho Physician Well-Being Action Collaborative that showed dozens of obstetricians have stopped practicing in the state.

A recent survey from the Idaho Coalition for Safe Reproductive Healthcare asked how Idaho’s abortion laws affect Idaho’s maternal healthcare doctors. When the study authors looked at OB-GYNs specifically, about half of those were strongly considering leaving Idaho. The study also showed that half of those doctors would also consider staying in the state if there were life and health exceptions to the total abortion ban.

Some medical students are also rethinking coming to Idaho to practice medicine. Earlier this year, medical students around the country found where they “matched” for residency, but most students did not send in applications for programs in Idaho.

The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine said out of their 2024 graduating class of 147 physicians, 16 are staying in Idaho.

Is access to birth control at risk?

Blaine Conzatti, president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, a religious lobbying group behind much of the recent anti-abortion legislation, told the Idaho Capital Sun he would like to ban IUDs and emergency contraception, as well as remove the state’s exceptions for abortions in cases of rape or incest.

Emergency contraceptives are not the same as medication abortions.

Pills like Plan B or Ella prevent or delay one of the hormonal surges that trigger ovulation, or the release of eggs. They can prevent, but do not stop, pregnancies.

On the other hand, medication abortion involves two pills, the second of which causes the uterus to expel the pregnancy.

What about Idaho's Texas-style abortion ban?

On March 23, 2022, Gov. Brad Little signed a bill into law that would allow private citizens to sue doctors who perform abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant.

Idaho’s law differs slightly from the Texas statute, which allows anyone – regardless of whether they live in Texas or not – to sue a person who “aids or abets” an illegal abortion, like an Uber driver.

In Idaho, only family members of an aborted fetus could sue the doctor who performed the procedure after a fetal heartbeat could be detected. The minimum award would be $20,000.

That includes the family of someone who rapes a woman and impregnates her.

How did we get here?

Idaho's abortion ban is new, but it didn't come out of nowhere. Idaho lawmakers have wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade for nearly 50 years.

Just two months after Roe was decided in 1973, Idaho legislators began trying to craft the state’s law to be “as restrictive as possible,” as described by Sen. Leon Swenson (R-Nampa) according to minutes from a Senate committee meeting.

And since 1990, Idaho legislators have enacted more than a dozen laws modifying its abortion statute.

Lawsuit tracking

There are multiple lawsuits challenging Idaho’s abortion laws. In January 2024, an Ada County Judge granted most of Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador’s motion to dismiss in Adkins v. State of Idaho.

In this case, two limited claims were allowed to move forward, with Judge Jason Scott deciding the plaintiffs are entitled to have their rights declared under statutes in the Idaho Constitution through a declaratory judgment. The judge is also allowing a limited challenge to the constitutionality of the statutes narrowly related to how they might apply in specific pregnancy-related situations.

In another lawsuit, six Idaho professors and two teachers’ unions are challenging the “No Public Funds for Abortion Act,” which makes it a crime to use public funds to promote or counsel in favor of abortion. The lawsuit argues the NPFAA violates the First Amendment rights of professors by “broadly and prospectively criminalizing all academic speech that might express a viewpoint favorable to abortion,” according to a news release from the ACLU.

In November 2023, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on Idaho’s so-called abortion trafficking law. In the latest decision of Matsumoto v. Labrador, U.S. Magistrate Judge Debora K. Grasham granted a temporary restraining order against the “abortion trafficking” statute in House Bill 242, preventing it from being enforced.

In her concluding paragraph of the temporary restraining order decision, Judge Grasham said the lawsuit is not about the right to an abortion, but rather it is about the rights to freedom of speech, expression, due process and parental rights.

And in October 2023, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to reconsider an appeals case that will determine whether emergency room physicians in Idaho will be shielded from prosecution under the state’s abortion ban for providing stabilizing care. The States Newsroom reports the order came less than two weeks after a three-judge panel of the court granted an appeal from the Idaho Legislature to reverse a decision that prevented ER doctors from criminal penalties for providing an abortion as stabilizing care.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on Idaho and Moyle, et al. v. United States on June 26, 2024. In April, the High Court heard arguments on whether or not Idaho’s abortion bans conflict with federal mandates requiring doctors to stabilize patients in an emergency, which can include providing an abortion.

What are your thoughts?

What are your thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade? Do you have questions specifically about Idaho's abortion ban? We want to hear from you.

Some reactions from our audience after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

  • Leave us a voicemail in our Boise State Public Radio Radio app. You can download it for free right now from your app store. Then just open the app & click on the top box to record your thoughts.
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