WESTERN TREASURE VALLEY — What does the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision overturning of the Roe V. Wade case on Friday mean for the Western Treasure Valley? The court’s decision sends abortion rights back to states. In 26 states there are trigger laws that will take effect in the next month. This includes a trigger law in Idaho adopted in 2020 which will make abortion a felony in most cases, except rape, incest or risk of life for the mother.
As such, women seeking those services in Idaho will need to make a longer trip to a state that still allows it, such as Oregon.
Another law adopted in Idaho this year is on hold currently while the state’s high court considers a lawsuit. That law would further reducing access by banning abortions after six weeks of gestation — the average length of time it takes for a woman to realize she is pregnant. It would also allow family members to sue abortion providers. The Idaho Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on that case in August.
Previously, in the Western Treasure Valley, the closest place to obtain an abortion in the region was at the Planned Parenthood in Meridian or Boise. The next-closest facility is 250 miles away in Bend. Planned Parenthood permanently closed its Boise location about a week ago, according to Anne Udall, CEO for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. She was not certain whether the Meridian clinic had closed yet, but did say that clinics in Oregon and Washington already had been seeing an uptick in out-of-state patients. Udall provided this information during a news conference on Friday afternoon with other Planned Parenthood officials.
Officials with that entity have been exploring opening a clinic in Ontario. During the news conference, Udall confirmed that remains a goal.
“The city of Ontario is one place we are working to establish a clinic,” she said, though noted she did not have more details on the timing.
All permitting and regulatory processes will be followed for setting it up, she stated, noting that those processes take time. She said they will share information directly with the Ontario community “when it is time.”
“Our current and future patients need to know we put their safety first and continue to strive to reduce barriers to care,” Udall said.
Udall stated that more than 92% of the reproductive health care services are not related to abortion, and that the 8% that is includes surgical and or medication abortions, which remain protected in Oregon and Washington.
A news outlet that asked whether there would need to be increased security in Ontario, as it is a “predominantly Red area of the state,” was told that Planned Parenthood is paying attention to security and the needs of their patients.
As to those questions about legal ramifications for providing abortions for people from Idaho or other states they may travel from where it is banned, officials clarified that they do no provide legal advice. However, they stated that they plan to follow all state laws within Oregon and Washington, where abortion remains a reproductive health care right.
“This takes a 50-year constitutional right from millions in our country,” she said, noting that Planned Parenthood will continue its efforts on expanding access in rural Oregon, including telehealth programs, which already have been expanded.
Abortive services are a protected health care right in Oregon due to House Bill 3391, passed in 2017.
Medicaid does cover abortions in Oregon. Those who do not qualify for Medicaid, may still be eligible to receive coverage through Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act. Other options include clinical funding (sometimes available), or the the Abortion Access Network, a nonprofit organization funded by Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which helps pay for abortions (including travel and lodging vouchers) for those needing assistance with that.
Idaho physicians group, others react
At the time of this writing a rally was happening at the Supreme Court. Across the nation, reactions are mixed over the high court decision, with several entities scheduling press conferences or issuing statements as the decision was announced across the nation.
Even in Ontario, members of the city council have differing opinions on the matter.
Among those who have expressed unease and distress about how the decision will impact Idahoans is is the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians.
“IAFP is deeply concerned about how the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court could limit an individual’s ability to make their own reproductive health decisions in consultation with their medical provider,” reads a statement released Friday morning. “To improve the health of patients, families, and communities, everyone must have access to the full range of health care services.”
A survey of the members indicated the majority opinion of physicians in that group support access to abortion care in Idaho since the passage of Roe v. Wade. Furthermore the group has formed a reproductive health committee to review evidence-based practices and advocate for reproductive health access in Idaho, including abortion.
“Health care decisions should be made by patients in consultation with a trusted physician who is able to offer all information necessary to ensure informed consent,” reads the statement. “The IAFP strongly opposes any external interference in this process as it conflicts with the fundamental medical principle of patient autonomy and infringes upon the patient-physician relationship.”
Although abortion is protected in Oregon, there are entities working toward laws that would limit or restrict it.
“This is a historic day. A day the pro-life movement has been working toward for over 50 years,” said Lois Anderson, Oregon Right to Life executive director. “Oregon Right to Life will continue our work to pass laws that protect unborn babies and their mothers and orient state policy toward providing life-affirming resources to families facing unsupported pregnancies.”
During the Planned Parenthood news conference, one outlet asked about what might happen if Oregon voters this November elect a governor who was openly against abortion. To this the answer came: the administrative branch is only one level of government and abortion is currently codified in state law.
To that end, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan issued a statement on Friday afternoon.
"Let’s be clear: In Oregon, abortion is legal. It is still your right,” she said. “You can travel to Oregon to get an abortion if you need to.”