Remember the Atlantic story asserting that pro-lifers were a bloc in the Republican Party promoting increased access to healthcare, especially for pregnant women and mothers? Well, you’d have a hard time finding a state with a more powerful “pro-life” [sic with extreme prejudice] faction than Idaho. Let’s see how that’s working out:
In fact, there are multiple abortion bans in effect in Idaho. After Roe fell, the first to take effect was a six-week ban in the style of Texas’ SB 8, which empowered civilians to enforce it by filing “bounty hunter” lawsuits against doctors. But Idaho’s version did more than that: It included criminal penalties and doubled the civil penalties from $10,000 to a minimum of $20,000. The law is also written in such a way that a rapist wouldn’t be able to sue a doctor for providing an abortion to his victim, but one of his immediate family members could.
Then, days later, Idaho’s total abortion ban took effect. The law has such narrow exceptions that the federal government sued, arguing it violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).
“When I started seeing how strange and how extreme some of our legislators were in their comments and testimony around certain laws being passed in Idaho, my partner and I realized that staying private was also a safety measure for me,” Babayan said. “Hearing some of these radical proposals on how to track pregnant women in Idaho to ensure they’re not miscarrying or leaving the state … I’ve never felt that unsafe as a woman in the United States before.”
In the 2023 legislative session, Idaho lawmakers created the new crime of “abortion trafficking,” making it illegal to help a minor travel within the state to access care. They also dissolved the state’s maternal mortality review committee, rendering Idaho the only state without one, and voted against expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage.
[Taps head twice] “Our policies can’t be accused of increasing maternal mortality if we stop collecting data about maternal mortality! And the free money the federal government is offering that we could use to provide medical care to new mothers — they can eat shit, Jack! Anyway, we are the Party of Life.”
And f you want to carry a pregnancy to term but live in a rural area, good luck with that:
Sandpoint, the picturesque North Idaho town situated next to the largest of the region’s famed mountain lakes, has been in the news a lot this year. The maternity ward at its local hospital, Bonner General Health, shut down in May. Hospital administrators cited a number of factors, the “legal and political climate” being one.
It was the first labor and delivery ward in the state to shut down, and another quickly followed.
Last year, shortly before Idaho’s abortion bans went into effect, Hannah Vollmer had an ectopic pregnancy and had to have emergency surgery to treat it. She and her husband have lived in Sandpoint for nine years and are local business owners.
“My husband was actually really nervous about me talking about it publicly, because you never know what people’s beliefs are,” she said.
Soon after her ectopic pregnancy, Vollmer managed to get pregnant again. She was about a month away from her due date when Bonner General stopped delivering babies. Rumors of the closure had spread through town before the public announcement because a Bonner General nurse posted about it on Facebook. Even after the official announcement, no one could give Vollmer a straight answer as to when the shutdown would actually happen.
Vollmer had a cerclage, a procedure where the cervix is stitched shut to help prevent preterm birth. The stitches were removed, and she was told to prepare for the fact that she could go into labor at any time. This plunged her into an anxious race against time in the last few weeks of her pregnancy.
“I had to beg to get into a doctor down in Coeur d’Alene,” she said. That’s about an hour south of Sandpoint—without traffic.
Ultimately, she chose to have labor induced after several weeks of driving back and forth for doctor’s appointments, facing the prospect of an hour or more in the car while in labor. The closure forced Vollmer to make choices she otherwise wouldn’t have. Still, she said, she feels lucky. She didn’t have other kids who needed care during that time. She didn’t live in the even more rural communities north and east of Sandpoint.
Every OB-GYN who used to practice in Sandpoint has left. Just a few nurse practitioners and one nurse midwife, who commutes up once a week from Coeur d’Alene, serve as the area’s sole reproductive health-care providers. That has consequences for people at all stages of life. And local organizer Alicia Abbott—who herself was born in the now-shuttered labor and delivery ward at Bonner General—said “anti-medicine, anti-science” policies could one day lead the hospital to close entirely.
“I worry for the future. I worry about losing hospitals and seeing that vacuum being filled by professionals who have faith-based practices, because we are a faith healing state,” she said, referring to an exemption in Idaho law allowing parents to legally withhold lifesaving medical treatment from their children in favor of faith-based healing practices.
Whatever one would like the priorities of the American anti-abortion argument to be, the actually existing one is a seamless web of cruelty and inequity. You can support that or not, but nobody should be kiddin’ nobody about where it goes.