Last week, at its first in-person conference in three years at Sun Valley Resort, the Idaho Medical Association passed several resolutions supporting reproductive health care amid Idaho’s abortion bans.
“What we heard this weekend over and over is that, currently, because of Idaho’s laws, patients are not able to get the care that they need for pregnancy complications,” said IMA CEO Susie Keller.
“Physicians are terrified of running afoul of the law, or losing their license, or being sued by family members of a patient when they are just trying to provide care for pregnancy complications,” she said.
Idaho’s near-total abortion ban went into effect on Aug. 25. U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill paused part of the law, allowing abortions to continue in urgent situations in hospital emergency rooms.
IMA, representing almost 4,000 physicians around the state, passed several resolutions related to reproductive health and tabled a few more for now. The resolutions, drafted by doctors, inform IMA’s advocacy efforts.
“I’ve been with the IMA for 15 years, and this is the first time I’ve seen this many resolutions on the same topic,” Keller said.
She said about 1% of Idaho providers did elective abortions before the Dobbs decision this spring. But since Idaho’s abortion laws have gone into effect, about a third of Idaho’s physicians are impacted by the law – whether they’re OBGYNs, family physicians or emergency room doctors.
Two resolutions passed at the meeting ask the association to support improved access to contraception and oppose legislation restricting access to emergency contraception like Plan B.
Sen. Brent Crane, chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, commented this spring that he would not support holding hearings on legislation to ban IUDs, a form of birth control, but would consider holding hearings on bills regarding emergency contraception.
A few other IMA resolutions aim to protect patients with pregnancy complications whose care may be compromised because of the abortion ban.
They seek to advocate for maintaining access to Mifepristone, a drug that, in combination with another pill, is used for medication abortions but is also used for early miscarriages; for terminating nonviable pregnancies; and for terminating a pregnancy if, in the physician’s medical judgment, it’s necessary to “preserve or prolong” the life of the pregnant patient.
Idaho healthcare workers have said the trigger law’s protection to save a pregnant person’s life is too vague.
“Part of this resolution is to seek clarification on that so that physicians know to what level they can prevent the death of a pregnant patient,” said Dr. Lauren Miller, who practices maternal-fetal medicine at St. Luke’s in the Treasure Valley.
Miller is a founding member and facilitator of the Idaho Coalition for Safe Reproductive Health and helped draft a few of the resolutions.
One of them states that IMA will work to remove barriers victims of rape and incest could face in accessing an abortion in Idaho. The trigger ban allows people to get abortions under those circumstances but requires them to file a police report, which could take months to obtain.
“From any humanitarian perspective, forcing a patient to have to report to the police before accessing that care is often an insurmountable barrier,” she said.
Keller said the IMA hadn’t drafted legislation on these topics yet, but that it’s trying to determine the most pressing issues, “where people’s lives are in danger,” to decide where to devote policy attention.