Idaho Republicans Have to Roll Back Abortion Restrictions and They Feel ‘Sad’

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Idaho Republicans Have to Roll Back Abortion Restrictions and They Feel ‘Sad’

Nicole Knight

GOP legislators were forced by the courts to repeal a ban on medication abortion via telemedicine—a move that reportedly made anti-choice lawmakers cry.

A court settlement is forcing Idaho Republicans to repeal a ban on administering medication abortion via telemedicine.

Several Republican lawmakers on the House State Affairs Committee reportedly teared up Monday while voting to send the repeal legislation, HB250, to the full house, as the Associated Press reported.

“It is my sad duty, Mr. Chairman, to ask this committee to support house bill 250 in order to preserve our options going forward,” David Ripley, director of anti-choice outfit Idaho Chooses Life, told the house panel on Monday.

Idaho Chooses Life, the anti-choice group that wrote the repeal bill, has larded it with misinformation, advocates told Rewire.

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Idaho is a Republican stronghold. The GOP, which controls both legislative chambers and the governor’s office, has used its power to enact anti-choice legislation, including a pair of bills in 2015 that barred doctors from administering medication abortion via telemedicine, a technology connecting doctors and patients through video conferencing.

HB 189 prohibited providers from remotely prescribing the pills to induce abortion. HB 154 mandated in-person doctor visits for those seeking medication abortion in the largely rural state.

Planned Parenthood sued, arguing the telemedicine ban created an unnecessary burden that was rooted in politics, not science. A court in January signed off on a legal settlement, which required the state legislature to repeal the telemedicine ban in 2017, as Rewire reported.

“Women in Idaho deserve the right to have access to the safest, highest quality health care—these misguided laws do just the opposite by creating unnecessary hurdles to safe and legal abortion,” Mistie Tolman, Idaho legislative director and public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in a statement.

Although Tolman welcomed the repeal of the telemedicine ban, she noted the repeal bill includes a host of misinformation about abortion care safety. Such language isn’t uncommon in legislation designed to restrict abortion access.

For example, the Republican repeal bill cites a 2011 report from the Food and Drug Administration of 14 deaths linked to Mifepristone, one of drugs used in medication abortion. The legislation doesn’t mention that the report spans an 11-year period and includes 1.52 million patients, meaning deaths occurred .0009 percent of the time and medication abortion is very safe.

Research confirms that it’s safe for patients to take abortion-inducing pills at home or in a clinic. A study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology of 233,805 medication abortions in 2009-2010 found “significant adverse events or outcomes” in 0.65 percent of cases. The most common “outcome” was an ongoing intrauterine pregnancy, which happened in 0.5 percent of cases; “significant adverse events” occurred in 0.16 percent of cases, the study says.

The legislation claims that “chemical abortions performed by remote teleconferencing methods represent substandard medical care.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in a 2014 Practice Bulletin said, “medication abortion can be provided safely and effectively via telemedicine with a high level of patient satisfaction; moreover the model appears to improve access to early abortion in areas that lack a physician health care provider.”