Planned Parenthood is suing the state of Idaho so that medical professionals other than doctors can commit lawful abortions there.

The lawsuit filed December 14 by the abortion company and Seattle-based feminist group Legal Voice argues that an Idaho law requiring that a licensed physician perform abortions is unconstitutional.

It cites research showing that medical professionals such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurse midwives are also medically qualified to “safely and effectively” commit abortions, The Lewiston Tribune reports. The medical professionals belong to a class known as advanced practice clinicians.

Idaho is one of 42 U.S. states requiring that only licensed physicians perform abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the Planned Parenthood-founded research organization.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion chain, and other pro-abortion groups have also sued in the past to allow non-doctors in Maine and Montana to commit abortions. Per Guttmacher, non-physician abortion is allowed in California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Vermont. 

The plaintiffs in the Idaho suit say a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas, limits the availability of abortion. Three of the state’s five abortion facilities belong to Planned Parenthood. The abortion giant has locations in Twin Falls, Boise, and Meridian.

Ninety-five percent of Idaho’s counties do not have an abortion facility, the Lewiston Tribune report said, based upon 2014 data, with 68 percent of the state’s women living in those counties.

Existing abortion locations could offer abortion more days a week if the law were changed, the plaintiffs say, and new abortion sites may be able to open.

One plaintiff is Mary Stark, an Oregon-based nurse practitioner who lived previously in Idaho. She worked in two Idaho Planned Parenthood locations. 

Because a physician is only present at the Twin Falls Planned Parenthood two days a month and one day a week at its Boise site, Stark said pregnant women have had to travel extensively to get an abortion.

She said, “The woman would have to decide, ‘Can I rearrange my life around that one day or do I have to continue this pregnancy?’”

Stark is legally allowed in Oregon to perform chemical (medication) abortions and vacuum aspiration (“suction”) abortions. She can also administer chemical abortions in Washington.

“It’s like my skills magically dry up when I cross the border,” she said.

Idaho State Representative Fred Wood of Burley, a retired physician and chairman of the Idaho House Health & Welfare Committee, said he’d not been aware of the law before last week, and as far as he knows, discussion of changing the law has never been raised in the Idaho statehouse. 

Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs is listed as a defendant in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit, as are Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Ada County Prosecuting Attorney Jan Bennetts, and members of the State Board of Medicine and State Board of Nursing.

Loebs said his office has not had to enforce the law locally.

Planned Parenthood also challenged an Idaho law on the reporting of abortion complications which went into effect last July. The federal lawsuit against the state is awaiting a decision from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a U.S. District Court Judge’s ruling rejecting Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction against the law.

Date published: 17/01/2019
Written by: Lisa Bourne
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