By Idaho Rep. Ilana Rubel and Sen. Melissa Wintrow
It has now been one year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending 50 years of legal abortion access. We recently returned from the White House, where 47 red-state lawmakers met to discuss strategies to protect reproductive rights. As we compared notes, it was jarring to realize that even among red states, Idaho is the worst in America for women’s reproductive rights.
Here are the facts:
- Many red states have 6 or 12 week bans. Idaho’s is a total ban with no health exception. Abortion is only permitted to prevent certain death – organ loss, infertility, paralysis and potential death don’t qualify. In 2023, a bill permitting abortion for life-threatening conditions was blocked.
- Idaho allows no exception for fatal fetal anomalies. Where a fetus has no skull, no brain, or otherwise no possibility of survival after birth, a woman is forced to carry to term.
- Idaho is the only state to criminalize transporting a minor to another state for a legal abortion.
- Idaho is the only state where doctors have been threatened with criminal penalties for simply telling patients they can seek abortion in another state.
- Idaho is the only state with a total abortion ban that does not provide 12 months of postpartum maternal Medicaid coverage.
- Idaho is the only state without a maternal mortality review committee. GOP legislators shut it down this year. Our abortion laws are likely to lead to more women’s deaths, and apparently legislators didn’t want a committee collecting that data.
The fallout from these cruel laws has been dire and will impact far more than just women seeking abortions. Since Roe was overturned last year, two hospitals shut down labor and delivery services, we’ve lost almost half our fetal-maternal medicine specialists, and 73 of 117 OB-GYN doctors surveyed are considering leaving Idaho because of its abortion laws. Unsurprisingly, doctors don’t want to practice where they might face prison time for treating a hemorrhaging patient. For a state already short of doctors, this loss of providers jeopardizes the health of all Idahoans.
No other legislators we met at the White House had seen such drastic impacts on healthcare access in their state. Idaho’s laws are the worst in America, and the effects have followed suit.
The infuriating irony of Idaho’s abortion laws is that people who want children are the ones most damaged. Pregnancy isn’t perfect. Complications happen, and denying a woman a necessary abortion during an unsafe pregnancy may cause permanent loss of fertility, forever shutting down hopes of motherhood. Idaho’s current laws make mitigating complications hard and sometimes impossible.
Pregnancy should be celebrated, and pregnant people protected. Right now in Idaho, that’s not the case. Pregnant people are at the whim of lawmakers who overwhelmingly have no medical training and systematically ignore input from doctors. While Idaho’s extreme abortion laws have proven very helpful to politicians seeking wins in closed GOP primaries, they have brought great harm to women and healthcare access in Idaho.
Idaho Statesman polling shows the public opposes Idaho’s abortion laws, with 85% supporting health exceptions, 61% opposing criminal penalties for doctors, and a slight majority supporting legal abortion generally. Very few non-politicians think Idaho’s current law is a good idea.
Remember – you are the bosses. Speak up to legislators and vote. Idaho women should not be doomed to the worst reproductive health access in America. Our laws can be fixed, and we are here to help. Democratic legislators will work tirelessly to restore and protect women’s safety, and with a nudge from you, our GOP colleagues may someday join us.