An Idaho hospital is ending its labor and delivery services in the wake of a Texas-style, near-total abortion ban signed into state law last year.
Citing the state’s “legal and political climate,” Bonner General Health plans to stop delivering babies and providing other obstetrical services in mid-May, according to a press release. While the release doesn’t explicitly blame Idaho’s restrictive abortion laws for the decision, the implication is clear: “Highly respected, talented physicians are leaving,” it says, while the state legislature “continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care.”
Idaho bans abortion after six weeks’ gestation, before many women know they’re pregnant. In cases of rape and incest, women seeking abortions must file a police report, a particularly onerous requirement given that most people do not report their sexual assaults—even more so since some have been prosecuted for doing so.
Idaho also allows abortion to save the life of the mother, but it’s unclear to many physicians where that line is drawn. The American Medical Association has advised physicians to err on the side of providing abortion care when needed, even if it may conflict with the law. “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,” AMA president Dr. Jack Resneck said in a statement late last year.
Still, there are myriad reasons why doctors might hesitate to provide care that their state has deemed illegal, including the threat of civil litigation or of losing their medical license. It’s no wonder that experienced physicians, hamstrung by laws that dictate how they can do their job, are leaving states like Idaho. But it’s an ongoing tragedy for the people who live in those states, who can’t necessarily move, and who are losing the doctors most sympathetic to their needs.