Shuttered maternity wards, abortion pill bans, and crisis pregnancy center funding
An Idaho hospital is shutting down its labor and delivery department after the state’s criminalization of abortion providers drove away many of its doctors. Bonner General Health, located in the city of Sandpoint (northern Idaho), explained in a press release that “highly respected, talented physicians are leaving” and “recruiting replacements will be extraordinarily difficult.”
In addition, the Idaho Legislature continues to pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care. Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.
As a result, pregnant patients in the area will now have to drive at least 45 minutes away to the nearest hospital offering labor and delivery services.
Idaho currently bans abortion after six weeks and requires that doctors who do provide emergency abortion care to prove that the patient’s life was in danger—a legal obstacle that prevents physicians from performing abortions until the patient is near death.
“The legal/political climate in Idaho poses a barrier specific to recruitment and retention,” a spokesperson for BGH said in a statement to Jezebel. But the spokesperson emphasized that “the decision to close Labor and Delivery services was based on the ability to ensure patient safety,” threatened by lack of staffing.
Meanwhile, Idaho Republicans are advancing a bill that would make it a felony to transport a minor out of state for an abortion without their parent’s consent or obtain an abortion pill for a minor within the state without their parent’s consent. The Idaho House voted 57-12 earlier this month to pass H.B. 242, which creates a new crime called “abortion trafficking” punishable by 2-5 years in prison. All House Democrats voted against the measure.
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon (R) signed a bill into law last week explicitly banning the use of abortion pills in the state.
The legislation, S.F. 109, was sponsored entirely by Republican lawmakers and passed along party lines in both state chambers. Notwithstanding any legal actions—which are already underway—the new law will take effect in July.
Gov. Gordon also let a near-complete ban on abortion go into effect without his signature, saying in a letter that he has “a strong record of protecting the lives of the unborn, as well as their mothers.” However, as we have seen in numerous other states, abortion bans that contain exceptions for saving the life of the mother are more window-dressing than practical exceptions.
Luckily, a judge temporarily put the ban on hold due to a lawsuit that cites a state constitutional right to making your own healthcare decisions—a constitutional amendment spearheaded by Republicans in an attempt to undermine Obamacare.
Republicans in Florida are moving forward two bills that would ban abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, rather than the state’s current 15 week prohibition. Both H.B. 7 and S.B. 300 also impose a requirement that medication abortion be dispensed by a physician in person, banning telehealth prescriptions and the mailing of abortion pills.
In addition, S.B. 300 increases the state funding for crisis pregnancy centers—anti-abortion organizations disguised as health clinics—from $4.45 million to $25 million.
Vox: Sometimes called crisis pregnancy centers, the facilities’ “primary mission is to dissuade women from choosing abortion,” Katrina Kimport, an associate professor at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a group at the University of California San Francisco, writes in a new study of patients at the centers, published on Friday in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. The centers, most of which are religiously affiliated, typically offer services like pregnancy tests and sometimes resources like diapers or baby clothes, alongside counseling with an anti-abortion message.