(CN) – The largest provider of reproductive health services in Idaho claimed in federal court Tuesday that a new Idaho law violates privacy of women seeking abortions and presents an onerous burden on medical practitioners and health care facilities that are required to report direct or indirect complications even when they might not be a result of the abortion procedure.
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Idaho against the Attorney General’s Office, county prosecutors, the Department of Health and Welfare, and the state Boards of Medicine and Nursing, stating that the reporting requirements of the Abortion Complications Reporting Act, in effect as of July 1, 2018, are vague and convoluted, and many of the complications listed are “normal and expected side effects of abortion” or have no medical basis.
Some of the long list of complications medical practitioners are required to report, according to the complaint, include shock, coma and subsequent development of breast cancer, which could each be attributed to other procedures or conditions and refusing a follow-up visit, which is not a medical complication. In addition, the complaint states that depression or anxiety should also be reported, even though their incidence in women after an abortion procedure is similar to women after childbirth.
Hannah Brass Greer, chief legal counsel for the Planned Parenthood branch, said in a statement, “Abortion care is already incredibly safe. This is another attempt by Idaho politicians to shame and stigmatize people seeking abortion care and to spread the myth that abortion is dangerous.”
Idaho has current reporting requirements for abortion complications and even normal and expected adverse outcomes are rare, says the complaint. The Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics reports in 2017 there were 1,285 abortions performed in the state with 8 complications.
According to the lawsuit, healthcare facilities and practitioners are “left to guess what results qualify as ‘indirect’ results of an abortion.” The law states that failure on the part of medical personnel to disclose any complications that defendant agencies believe are related to the abortion can lead to civil and criminal fines and/or charges and incarceration, even if the complications happen decades later.
Although the law tries to assure practitioners and patients that publicly available reports will not disclose their identity, this promise of confidentiality has no force or effect under Idaho law, according to the lawsuit.
Patients are identified in reports by age, race, county, number of live births and even specific medical conditions, which the complaint says could easily identify specific patients in small and rural communities, as well as physicians, who could be at risk from anti-abortion activists who “make active efforts to identify and inflict reputational and physical harm on abortion providers.”
Greer said, “This law is nothing but government interference designed to restrict Idahoans access to legal reproductive healthcare” and that the law is “unconstitutional and should be struck down.”
The complaint asks the court to strike down the law and injunctive relief to keep the defendants from enforcing or threatening to enforce its conditions.
Scott Graf, director of constituent affairs for the attorney general’s office in Idaho, declined to comment on the lawsuit.