Idahoans deserve the freedom to make their own reproductive healthcare choices. The Republicans’ extreme abortion ban is a direct assault on this freedom. As Idahoans are now learning, this draconian ban has vast ripple effects, putting at risk our ability to access any obstetric and gynecology care at all.
Idaho made headlines this week when Bonner General Health announced it would discontinue labor and delivery care. The hospital came to this decision because their providers are leaving our state as “the Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care.”
Throughout Idaho, maternity care is becoming increasingly difficult to access, with longer drives for patients in labor or experiencing pregnancy-related emergencies. The risk continues after arriving at a hospital. Doctors, facing civil litigation and prison time for preserving the life of patients, have been outspoken about the dangerously restrictive language of our state’s abortion ban. Even if they act in life-threatening circumstances, providers can face prosecution and the challenge of proving death was imminent. This causes needless delays in care while providers wait until the patient’s condition worsens so medical intervention is defensible.
This should be a wake-up call about the dangerous consequences of one of the most extreme abortion bans in the nation. Instead of making changes, Republican lawmakers are doubling down. They just demonstrated they will not take even the most meager action to make Idaho safe for doctors and patients.
On Monday, a paltry bill related to providers’ concerns was introduced. HB 342 would have kept in place five-year prison sentences for doctors and nurses, cash bounties for family members of rapists, and the ban on abortion even when it protects the health and future fertility of the patient. But because the bill created an exception that would allow providers to protect the patient’s life without the risk of prosecution, the hardline extremists that drive abortion policy in Idaho became incensed. Idaho GOP Chairwoman Dorothy Moon stepped into the fray with an eleventh-hour action alert encouraging committee members to block the bill. The bill was abruptly pulled from the agenda minutes before the scheduled hearing.
This tactic from a party boss is new and frightening. She likely rationalizes it because the official Idaho Republican Party platform would criminalize abortion even when it is necessary to save the patient’s life, as in ectopic pregnancy. The platform is more than a terrifying philosophical statement. It is now driving legislative decisions and putting lives at risk.
Republican legislators are turning their backs on women in additional ways. Idaho’s Maternal Mortality Review Board, which helps our state analyze maternal deaths and develop prevention strategies, was up for renewal this year. Republican representatives shut down the board, no doubt sweeping under the rug the deaths their extreme abortion ban will cause. A bill to extend postpartum coverage through Medicaid also died.
One thing is clear. The Republican lawmakers who created this mess will never fix it. We can only count on them to make it worse. When it comes to restoring our full abortion rights and rebuilding a climate that will allow our doctors and nurses to practice safely, electing Democrats is our only path forward. Join us.
Lauren Necochea, Idaho Democratic Party Chair