Idaho’s health department is now sending patients seeking abortion care to fake clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, thanks to a new Republican-backed law promoting free ultrasound providers.
The law, HB 516, amends an existing statute to require the state Department of Health and Welfare to compile a list of providers of free ultrasounds. The agency must also let pregnant people know they have the “right to view an ultrasound image and hear heart tone monitoring.”
The health department, however, doesn’t screen the providers, which “gives the false impression that this is a vetted list …when it’s actually not,” as Hannah Brass Greer, Idaho legislative director of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, told Rewire.
Getting included on the list simply requires contacting the health department, and all of the 11 providers now on it are anti-abortion facilities. As Brandi Swindell, CEO of Stanton Healthcare, which has two clinics on the list, told the Associated Press, “I’m 100 percent pro-life.”
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When Rewire reached Sherry Bushnell at A Blessed Beginning, which is also included on the health department’s list, she said they actually don’t provide free ultrasounds right now because their ultrasound facility is “under construction.” She said they refer clients to Life Choices, in nearby Sandpoint, Idaho.
Like most anti-choice clinics, A Blessed Beginning espouses unscientific claims about the psychological risks of abortion care. Its website warns that abortion causes everything from eating disorders to suicidal thoughts, although peer-reviewed studies have found no link between abortion care and depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The health department issued the list August 1, and it includes facility names, addresses, contact information, and hours. One of the clinics is actually in Washington state, not Idaho. Planned Parenthood isn’t included because it does not offer free ultrasounds, though representatives from the organization told Rewire it does offer financial assistance to those in need.
Buried at the bottom of the four-page list is a small disclaimer that says, in part:
This information is not intended to constitute medical advice or the provision of medical services …. The Department of Health and Welfare does not inspect, certify, or endorse any of the providers listed and cannot be held liable for the action(s) of said providers.
“Adding that language was a way to let people know that we’re not saying this is going to be a great ultrasound experience,” health department spokesperson Niki Forbing-Orr told the Associated Press. “There’s no registry for this type of equipment in Idaho. Anyone can own and operate one.”
As Rewire previously reported, one of the clinics on the health department list is directly connected to Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens), who voted in favor of the legislation. In 2014, Barbieri was president of the board of directors of Open Arms PCC and Real Choices Clinic, which is included on the health department’s list.