A Texas-style, nearly complete ban on abortion was enacted into state law last year, and as a result, one Idaho hospital is discontinuing its labor and delivery services.
According to a news release, Bonner General Health intends to discontinue childbirth and other obstetrical services in the middle of May due to the “legal and political atmosphere” in the state. Although the press release doesn’t directly attribute the choice to Idaho’s strict abortion laws, the implication is clear: “Highly regarded, talented physicians are leaving,” the release reads, “while the state legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care.”
During six weeks of pregnancy, when many women are not even aware they are pregnant, Idaho outlaws abortion. Women who want abortions must report rape and incest to the police, which is a burdensome obligation given that most individuals do not disclose sexual assaults and is made worse by the fact that some people have been prosecuted for doing so.
Idaho also permits abortions to save the mother’s life, but many doctors are unsure of where to draw the line. Even if it could be against the law, doctors are recommended by the American Medical Association to err on the side of giving abortion care when it is necessary. Dr. Jack Resneck, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement late last year: “Caught between good medicine and bad law, physicians struggle to meet their ethical duties to patients’ health and well-being while attempting to comply with reckless government interference in the practice of medicine that is dangerous to the health of our patients.”
Nonetheless, there are several reasons why medical professionals might be reluctant to offer treatment that their state has considered illegal, including the risk of civil lawsuits or losing their license to practice medicine. It is understandable why skilled medical professionals are emigrating from areas like Idaho where regulations restrict how they can practice medicine. Yet, it continues to be a tragedy for the residents of those states who are unable to leave and who are losing the medical professionals who can best understand their requirements.