Idaho Curbs Abortion Law as Part of Settlement Agreement

The Idaho State Capitol building in Boise, Idaho.

(CN) – The Idaho Legislature has amended a law requiring medical providers to report complications of abortions, as a result of a lawsuit filed last July by the largest provider of reproductive services in Idaho.

A motion for dismissal was filed Wednesday outlining an agreement reached between Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, county prosecutors, the Department of Health and Welfare, and the state boards of Medicine and Nursing.

The stipulations of the agreement provide for retroactive relief from July 1, 2018, when the Abortion Complications Reporting Act took effect, protecting Planned Parenthood, medical providers and staff from legal action for failure to report “complications” arising from abortions.

The long list of complications referenced in the original complaint included medical conditions that could be attributed to other procedures, such as development of breast cancer, shock and coma.

Providers who didn’t report depression or anxiety in their patients, or didn’t note if the patient refused a follow-up visit would also have been subject to fines and prosecution under the terms of the law.

Hannah Brass Greer, chief legal counsel for the Planned Parenthood branch, said in a statement, “The Idaho Legislature has amended the harmful reporting law because our lawsuit showed them this unconstitutional measure unnecessarily placed politicians between a woman and her doctor. This is a win against the types of laws meant to out abortion providers for no medical reason.”

Idaho already had abortion complication reporting requirements in place before the law was passed. Adverse outcomes are rare, even those that are normal and expected. The Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics reports from 2017 list 8 complications from 1,285 abortions performed.

Although the law purported to keep the identities of patients and practitioners out of publicly available reports, the lawsuit had stated there was no guarantee of confidentiality, especially in rural communities where small populations could make it easier to identify patients and providers.

The signed motion for dismissal stipulates the Department of Health and Welfare would not release reports provided by Planned Parenthood from the time the law was in effect through March 7, 2019, and it would not use information from those reports in preparing the “comprehensive annual statistical report” required by state law.

Greer said patients should be protected from unnecessary rules and requirements that could create a stressful situation when making personal choices for their own care.

“Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands will continue fighting for every person’s ability to access safe, legal abortion without having to face stigmatizing restrictions meant to shame them for their health care choices,” Greer said.

She said Planned Parenthood will continue to keep watch over lawmakers to ensure legal protection for patients and medical providers.

“The state will continue to see costly legal challenges like these as long as our legislators continue pushing unconstitutional policies,” Greer said.

Scott Graf, director of constituent affairs for the attorney general’s office in Idaho, declined to comment on the motion for dismissal.

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