March 16, 2022
Abortion rights advocates say the impacts of an Idaho bill limiting abortion will be felt by residents in the Magic Valley.
The legislation would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy by allowing potential family members to sue a doctor who performs one.
If signed, the law would effectively ban abortion in Idaho. The bill passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting a signature or veto from Gov. Brad Little.
“Idaho already has so many restrictions on the books that this six-week ban really does put abortion out of reach for most Idahoans,” said Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, the Idaho state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “When I think about the rural communities that we serve in Twin Falls, people who already have barriers to accessing health care, this bill is going to affect them way more.”
Idaho has five facilities that offer abortion services. Planned Parenthood’s Twin Falls Health Clinic provides abortion services to residents across southern, central and eastern Idaho.
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A House panel of Idaho lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would ban abortions after cardiac activity is detected in an embryo — at about six weeks of pregnancy — by allowing extended family members of the patient to sue a doctor who performs one.
Nationwide, Planned Parenthood said abortion services make up 3 percent of services performed. The vast majority of people using Planned Parenthood’s health services have low incomes and use services such birth control and emergency contraception, HIV testing, LGBTQ services, men’s health care, pregnancy testing and services, and STD testing and treatment.
Anti-abortion advocates say the bill is necessary to protect unborn children.
“Although life begins at conception, a detectable heartbeat is a key indicator of the existence of life,” Rep. Steven Harris (R-Meridian), the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “This bill makes sure that the people of Idaho can stand up for our values and do everything in our power to prevent the wanton destruction of innocent human life.”
It isn’t just abortion rights advocates who have raised concerns about the bill.
The bill’s provision that allows any family member to sue a physician for providing an abortion has some people seeing potential for frivolous lawsuits and other ways for the legislation to be abused.
“That vigilante aspect is definitely a form of government overreach, and starts a slippery slope of surveillance of my member’s patients and their practices that we think is really concerning,” Idaho Academy of Family Physicians Executive Director Liz Woodruff told the Times-News.
The academy represents more than 800 family physicians and said the bill is an intrusion by the government into the confidential relationship between a patient and their physician.
“It’s always problematic when there’s a level of government overreach that comes in to the clinician’s room and makes a current and accepted medical practice illegal,” Woodruff said.
“I think Idahoans generally want to uphold the rights of private citizens to make decisions about their own health care and well being,” Woodruff said. “The people of Idaho respect that important and confidential relationship between a physician and patient.”
Idaho already has stringent requirements on abortion, including prohibiting public and private insurance from covering the cost, requiring the procedure to be covered out of pocket. The state also mandates a 24-hour waiting period and requires patients to review informed consent materials.
“All of those restrictions put together, and then having to have it happen before six weeks makes it nearly impossible for anybody to get an abortion in Idaho,” DelliCarpini-Tolman said.
Idaho’s bill to block most abortions in the state was modeled after a ban in Texas, which took effect in September. In the first month that the Texas ban was in effect, it eliminated 60 percent of in-state abortions. Clinics in neighboring states reported a 600% increase in services provided to Texas residents, and in some places created backlogs of up to three weeks.
DelliCarpini-Tolman expects similar exodus to some of Idaho’s neighboring states for abortion services.
“We’re going to have a similar drop, and we’re going to have folks needing to seek care outside of Idaho in bordering states,” she said.
For Twin Falls residents, the closest abortion provider will be 571 miles away in Eugene, Oregon. In Northern Idaho, services are available in the Spokane and Pullman, Washington, areas.
Republicans in the Idaho Senate on Thursday passed a bill on party lines that would allow family members of a pregnant woman to file civil lawsuits against medical providers who perform an abortion after cardiac activity is detected in the embryo or fetus.
DelliCarpini-Tolman said her organization and others are planning legal responses if the governor signs the bill and are having further conversations with organizations like Northwest Abortion Access Fund about how to help patients access care.
“Our focus is to figure out how we can continue to care for patients as best we can or help them access the care they need in neighboring states,” DelliCarpini-Tolman said.
Little has so far signed every abortion bill that’s come across his desk, but opponents are hopeful that aspects of this bill change that.
“I really hope that Gov. Little thinks about his constituents and thinks about what’s right for Idaho, and what’s right for Idahoans,” DelliCarpini-Tolman said. “Because this isn’t it.”
Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates will host a rally against the bill 10 a.m. Saturday on the steps of the Capitol in Boise.