In Idaho, many patients soon have to show a police report of rape or incest to get an abortion

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down federal abortion protections won’t affect the practice in Oregon and Washington, but it will in Idaho. The court decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health triggered an Idaho law passed two years ago that will only allow abortions in cases of rape or incest, or if the pregnant person’s life is in danger. James Dawson, who covers politics and government for Boise State Public Radio, joined Tiffany Camhi on “All Things Considered” to discuss how the decision will affect people seeking abortions in his state.

Here is a slightly edited version of their conversation:

Tiffany Camhi: Thanks for joining us, James. When will the Idaho law take effect?

James Dawson: Dates are a bit squishy right now because – and I didn’t find out until Friday – but this opinion we all see published? This is apparently not the final final version. … But they will eventually print and release a completely final decision, and that’s when the 30-day countdown for Idaho’s law to take effect will begin. And so the attorney general’s office here told me on Friday that they expected it to be the end of August.

Camhi: I know you pointed out that there are still some caveats to these exceptions [to Idaho’s abortion ban]. And again, these exceptions are rape, incest and the health of the mother. Can you explain what those caveats are?

Dawson: Yes. And to be more specific, it’s not even the health of the mother, it’s only the conditions that would threaten the life of the mother. So, for example, if a mother’s mental state causes her to have suicidal thoughts, that cannot be used as an excuse to have an abortion.

Rape and incest have their own specific provisions, … where the woman should first report it to the police, which is a controversial notion among victims of sexual assault. But then you must also provide a copy of that police report to the doctor who would perform an abortion in Idaho, which advocates say is nearly impossible to obtain because during ongoing investigations, law enforcement order do not disclose this information. This could therefore potentially render these exceptions meaningless.

Camhi: What has the conversation on the ground been like in Idaho since Friday?

Dawson: As you can imagine, abortion advocates just cheered the decision, because it truly caps a nearly 50-year effort to try not just to bring control over abortion back to individual states, but to block as much as possible. So they are extremely happy. You know, all of our elected officials across the state are Republicans, as are four members of Congress. And they all had statements saying [something along the lines of]”That’s great, I’m pro-life.”

But when it comes to proponents of abortion rights, it’s devastating. You could hear the emotion in their voices when we were on the phone with the press with people from Planned Parenthood, and just regular people who showed up to protest. … There have been several protests here in Boise to really speak out against the decision.

NPR just released a poll earlier today showing that 56% of Americans disagree with the decision, compared to 40% who support the Supreme Court’s choice.

Camhi: Shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a branch of Planned Parenthood here in Portland has announced plans to open a new clinic in Ontario, Oregon near the Idaho border. Do you have any idea how many Idaho patients this new clinic could accommodate?

Dawson: I really do not know. … The latest statistics we have from the health department from 2020 show that about 2,000 people in Idaho had abortions that year. And there were three clinics run by Planned Parenthood – here in Boise, in suburban Meridian, and then in Twin Falls. Now the Boise and Meridian clinics have merged, and they say they plan to stay open for more health checkups and the like.

But, you know, I don’t know how big that Ontario clinic is or what its capacity would be like. It’s about an hour’s drive west of Boise. I don’t know if it will turn away or be able to handle so many people. If you live more in the northern part of the state, going to Spokane or potentially Pullman in Washington could also be an option.

Camhi: James, thank you for your report.

Since we recorded this conversation, a regional branch of Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against Idaho on the state law banning most abortions. The abortion rights group says the 2020 law violates the Idaho constitution.

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