health care crisis

Idaho’s health care crisis harbinger for what is to come

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The consequences of making abortion a “states’ rights issue” have been far-reaching. Idaho exemplifies the damage that has been done — and will continue to take place — until abortion is federally protected. 

Those who claim to be “pro-life” should be absolutely horrified to learn that banning abortion means that pregnant people have fewer options for delivering a baby. And yet that is exactly what is happening. In Idaho, there are at least two hospitals that no longer deliver babies or provide obstetric care. The Bonner County hospital explained that this decision was in response to the abortion ban in the state: “The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care. Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.” Without comprehensive obstetric care, health care for women and pregnant people will suffer. This is underscored by the fact that Idaho lawmakers have refused to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage. 

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Idaho are looking to permanently end the Maternal Mortality Review Committee. It seems suspiciously convenient to disband a committee that would be tasked with reviewing the deaths of pregnant individuals and new mothers at the same time that reproductive health care is stripped away.  One would think that the forced-birther crowd would be aghast to know that pregnant women will die and suffer — and presumably their children, too. But there is nary a cry. To me, these moves are emblematic of what is long known about Christian extremism: Women are second-class citizens whose lives are expendable. 

To add to the dystopia in Idaho, lawmakers there recently passed a bill that would ban minors from traveling out of state for abortion care. Set to be signed by Gov. Brad Little, this law would charge anyone who takes a minor to receive legal abortion care in Washington, Oregon or Montana without parental consent with “abortion trafficking.” The person would face at least two years in prison. Outrageously, family members of the fetus can sue abortion providers for up to $20,000.

By restricting minors from seeking such abortion care, Idaho lawmakers are placing young people in grave danger. Studies have shown that minors who do not tell their parents that they are pregnant often have a very good reason and can face heightened risk of abuse, abandonment and forced pregnancy when they confide in their families. This may be especially true for teens in religious households. And with 67 percent of adults in Idaho identifying as Christian and 49 percent professing that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, this bill puts young people in grave danger.  

These issues are not isolated to Idaho. They have the potential to impact every single state in the country. Truly, no state is safe from the long arm of Christian nationalist anti-abortion policies. 

That’s why we must take action and make our secular voices heard. 

If you are in FFRF’s home state of Wisconsin, make sure that you vote tomorrow, April 4. You can find your polling location and see your ballot in advance. Learn more here

Support the federal Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would guarantee equal access to abortion care and undo unscientific abortion restrictions. It was recently reintroduced by Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Judy Chu, Lois Frankel and Veronica Escobar. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been a long supporter of the Women’s Health Protection Act and was one of the 100-plus organizations to initially sign onto the campaign. FFRF had submitted formal testimony in support of the bill, highlighting the “religiously motivated attacks on abortion rights.”

Support the EACH Act. The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act would reverse the Hyde Amendment and related abortion coverage restrictions. When it was first introduced in 2021, FFRF joined All* Above All, a women of color coalition, and 150 other groups to support this bill. 

Contact your representatives and let them know that we must have these crucial acts made into law. 

Donate to an abortion fund, which helps to cover the cost of abortion for people who cannot afford it. FFRF’s co-founder Anne Nicol Gaylor established the Women’s Medical Fund of Wisconsin, which is one of the oldest abortion funds in the nation. It is raising $100,000 to fund abortion care for at least 300 people in Wisconsin. You can make a tax-deductible donation or form a fundraising team here

It can be disheartening to read about the harm that is enacted on women and pregnant people throughout the country. Idaho’s regression on reproductive health underscores the dangers of religiously rooted legislation. 

But as many activists have said for decades, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me!” Let’s start making good change in this country.

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