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Friday, February 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Idaho posts free ultrasound list for women seeking abortions

Here's a full report from AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi: 

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho health officials have released a list of providers that offer free ultrasounds for women seeking abortions as required under a newly enacted law.

The 11 ultrasound providers that requested to be included on the list primarily are crisis pregnancy centers, which often are run by religiously affiliated groups and discourage women from getting abortions; none offer referrals for abortions.

Idaho's health agency says it has not inspected or certified the centers. Furthermore, state officials have posted a warning that the information the centers provide should not be used as medical advice and is not endorsed by the state. The list will be updated annually each Jan. 1.

"Adding that language was a way to let people know that we're not saying this is going to be a great ultrasound experience," agency spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr said. "There's no registry for this type of equipment in Idaho. Anyone can own and operate one."

Republican lawmakers pushed for the list of free ultrasound providers during this year's legislative session. They refused requests from minority Democratic members to ensure the information given by the providers was medically accurate.

Proponents said doing so simply provided useful information to women contemplating abortions. Critics countered the law was another effort to burden those women.

State officials will distribute the list to abortion providers. The list also is available at abortioninfo.dhw.idaho.gov. It includes the ultrasound providers' contact information and hours of operation.

The providers listed are located throughout the state, but the highest concentration is in highly conservative northern Idaho. No providers are listed in the Idaho Falls region, but advocates are hoping to soon change that.

"Ultrasound imagery is a game changer," said Brandi Swindell with Boise-based Stanton Health Care, which has two clinics listed as free ultrasounds providers on the state's newly distributed list.

Stanton Health Care is working with local lawmakers and community members to open either a permanent or mobile clinic in eastern Idaho over the next year.

"I'm 100 percent pro-life, but in addition to that, I'm also pro-woman," Swindell said. "Don't you think women deserve access to a free medical exam?"

Meanwhile, a religiously affiliated Boise clinic was looking for pregnant "models" to help train their staff on how to use newly acquired ultrasound machines as of Monday, the same day the state released the provider list. According to Path Pregnancy Clinic's website, the clinic was seeking women six to 20 weeks pregnant to give their volunteer registered nurses hands-on experience.

The clinic did not return multiple calls and emails seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Currently, 13 other states require some sort of verbal counseling or written materials to include information on accessing an ultrasound, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports abortion rights. Separately, 25 states impose regulations on how abortion providers give ultrasounds.

Idaho's law is in stark contrast to one passed in California last year. California's was the first statewide rule tightening restrictions on centers that discourage abortions. It requires them to provide information about abortions and affordable contraception, as well as disclose to clients if they're unlicensed.

Idaho requires that if an abortion provider gives an ultrasound, then the woman must be given the chance to view it. Overall, abortions in Idaho have gone down nearly 9 percent between 2010 and 2013 — where 1,375 took place that year.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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