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Planned Parenthood Sues Idaho Over ‘Physicians-Only’ Law

Emilie Ritter Saunders
Boise State Public Radio
A new lawsuit argues that an Idaho law unconstitutionally makes it more difficult for women for women to access abortions.

Planned Parenthood filed suit Friday morning against an Idaho law that restricts what kind of medical professionals can perform abortions. The group argues the state cannot restrict abortion services from advanced practice clinicians, such as nurse practitioners and midwives from conducting abortions.

“[I]t’s been proven that APCs have the ability to provide safe abortion care just as physicians can,” says Hannah Brass Greer of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands. “And so without that justification, this is an unconstitutional burden on access.”

According to Brass Greer, the Idaho law makes it more difficult for women to access abortions – especially in rural parts of the state. There are seven Planned Parenthood physicians in Idaho, spread across three clinics. But she says that not all of them are available full-time, making it difficult for patients to schedule the care they seek when they want it.

Idaho is the second state to have what’s known as its physicians-only law challenged. In 2017, Planned Parenthood filed a similar lawsuit in Maine.  

Mary Stark is a nurse practitioner with Planned Parenthood in Idaho, and a plaintiff in the suit. She also practices in Oregon, which does not have a physicians-only law. 

“My qualifications to provide an abortion don’t disappear when I cross the border into Idaho, but this law keeps me from being able to provide the care I was trained to do,” says Stark.

Kim Clark is an attorney with Legal Voice, and is helping to represent Planned Parenthood and Stark. She says many of the physicians-only laws around the country came about shortly after Roe v. Wade. But she says now, they are unconstitutional after a 2016 Supreme Court case ruled that states cannot burden access to abortion without medical justification. 

Idaho is one of 42 states with a law that permits only medical doctors to perform abortions. 

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.