A woman at a protest holds a cardboard sign reading "I wish I could abort my government"

Anti-Abortion Laws Force One Idaho Hospital To Turn Away All Baby Deliveries

Who wants to hear another entry in the long and disturbing list of unintended (but entirely foreseeable) consequences of Roe v. Wade falling in the Supreme Court? Well, medical professionals are under so much threat of criminalization and litigation that they are sometimes unable to offer any clinical services related to reproductive healthcare at all. 

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People who actually understand and care about what goes into reproductive healthcare (read: not Republican lawmakers) saw this coming with the rash of states that have introduced legislation criminalizing abortion. The language of many of these laws is aggressive enough or leaves enough gray areas that even medical professionals involved in patient care resulting in or needing to treat an unintended miscarriage could face criminal charges and jail time. 

And it’s this stupid, tragic, completely avoidable state of things that has caused Bonner General Health hospital in rural Sandpoint, Idaho to close its obstetrics wing and cease to offer labor and delivery care entirely. Now, according to reporting from the Idaho Statesman, expectant mothers will have to drive more than 45 miles away to the next closest obstetrics care provider. 

In a statement released via the hospital’s social media, Bonner officials cited “Idaho’s legal and political climate” as a central reason why they were unable to keep the labor and delivery program aloft. The statement continued to explain that “Highly respected, talented physicians are leaving,” because of the climate doctors are facing. “…the Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,” the news release said. “Consequences for Idaho Physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.”

Idaho has some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the nation. Currently, the state bans abortion in almost every case, with some possible exceptions for saving the life of the parent, and only in cases of rape or incest previously reported to police. What the law actually says is that abortion providers can use those exceptions as legal defenses, implying they’re still going to get charged and/or sued.

Physicians acting against the law can face felony jail time and lose their licenses to practice. Things are already bad enough in Idaho. But the Idaho Republican Party Platform, released in 2022 describes an even more hellish vision for the future, according to reporting from the Washington Post, where “abortion is murder from the moment of fertilization” and should be criminalized “regardless of the circumstances of conception, including persons conceived in rape and incest.”

Well, it looks like we can expect more and more medical facilities to stop granting services they might go to jail for through no fault of their own. And then more and more rural women are going to go without labor and delivery care, and those babies are going to have worse and worse outcomes. I’m looking in my crystal ball here, and unless we have a major legislative turnaround in some of these red states, the future of reproductive rights looks bleak.

(featured image: Omar Marques/Getty Images)

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Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.