Healthcare restrictions are on the rise in Idaho, will other states follow?

By Stephanie Srakocic | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published April 11, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Idaho’s Bill 242 prohibits minors from receiving an out-of-state abortion and is the strictest anti-abortion measure in the country.

  • Abortion rights activists are concerned this is part of a trend in Idaho that will lead to even more restrictions, including a ban on adults crossing the border for abortion procedures, in the near future.

In early April, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed the most restrictive anti-abortion measures in the nation into law, and Idaho became the first state to expand its abortion ban past its own borders.

These new restrictions go beyond banning the performing or receiving of abortion in Idaho. They also prohibit some Idaho residents from traveling out of state to receive an abortion. Additionally, the regulations prohibit other Idaho residents from assisting these pregnant Idaho residents in border crossing to seek an abortion.

The state of abortion in Idaho 

Abortion has been illegal in Idaho since August 2022 when Roe v. Wade was overturned. Abortion is only permitted in the state in cases of rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life. In the past eight months, Idaho residents in need of abortions have been traveling to nearby states, such as Washington and Oregon, where abortions are still performed.

This new legislation, House Bill 242, prohibits minors from crossing the border for abortions.[] It also imposes fees and penalties on an adult who helps a minor secure an abortion. Idaho counts activities such as giving minors money to travel out of state, helping them make travel arrangements, helping to make an appointment, or giving a ride across the border as means of helping to secure an out-of-state abortion.

Supporters of this law say it is in place to protect minors and is well within the state’s jurisdiction. Opponents have expressed serious opposition to how strict and extreme this bill is, with the Idaho state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, saying it might be the “most extreme bill” she’s seen in her career. Additionally, advocates are concerned that banning border crossing for minors will quickly lead to banning border crossing for adults.  

Stacy Seyb, M.D., a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Boise, Idaho, says many doctors are recommending out-of-state abortions to their patients in Idaho when needed, but that women and couples are already facing difficulties.

“Not everybody has the money to pick up and go to another state for a few days,” says Seyb. “They might even have to pay cash or pay upfront at some places.”

Idaho and the mRNA vaccine

Abortion isn’t the only form of healthcare being questioned in Idaho. A bill currently in the Idaho Senate would ban the mRNA vaccine.[] Under this law, administering the mRNA vaccine would be a misdemeanor. Experts say that the bill is unlikely to pass during this Senate session. However, they also caution that this bill, even being introduced and receiving political attention, is worrying. There has been a growing public distrust of vaccines, and attempts to pass legislation such as this not only undermine medical guidelines on vaccines but can reinforce people’s fears and worries about their safety. 

What’s going on in neighboring states

Missouri introduced a similar bill earlier this year, but it was voted down in a House session. In Oregon and Washington, where abortion is legal and is likely to remain legal, legislators are looking into measures to protect abortion seekers from nearby states. These laws would restrict law enforcement officials and courts from responding to court orders, such as warrants and subpoenas, regarding abortions performed in the state on nonresidents. Lawmakers hope this would make it difficult for prosecutors in Idaho to collect evidence and build cases for violations of abortion-related laws. 

Around the country

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, reactions on the state level have been dramatically different throughout the country. In some states, such as Idaho, trigger laws allowed for an immediate abortion ban.[] Many of these states have introduced, or trying to introduce, even stricter abortion restrictions in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Conversely, some states, such as Michigan, have made abortion rights part of their state constitution and laws. Many of these states are also taking steps to help residents of nearby states where abortion has been banned. 

This marked difference in response isn’t expected to change anytime soon. So, while Idaho’s passing and implementing this extreme law is unlikely to affect abortion rights in California or Vermont, it’s very possible it could factor into how laws are written in Mississippi or Arkansas. As a result, the lives of millions could be impacted by the decisions in Idaho. 

What it means for physicians in Idaho

Idaho is already facing a pediatrician shortage, and two of the state’s labor and delivery units have closed down.[] Critics of Bill 242 and other anti-abortion measures in Idaho have stated that these issues are a direct result of the state’s restrictive policies on reproductive health. Closures, the political nature of the state, and the consequences for physicians who violate these laws may drive more physicians out of Idaho in the months and years to come. 

“It seems to me we’re taking away rights from families with our current political climate here in Idaho,” says Seyb. 

Already, practicing in the state can be tough and many physicians feel they can’t provide the best care to their patients without being able to offer all medical options.

Read Next: Proposed legislation aims to outlaw mRNA vaccines in Idaho
Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter