Idaho -- October 1, 2022: Universities in Idaho are cautioning faculty members under a new state legislation that they risk being punished with a felony if they advise students on how to obtain
emergency contraception or refer them to abortion providers.
Due to a law that was first enacted more than 150 years ago and last modified about 50 years ago, personnel at one of the colleges are also prohibited from advising students on how to receive birth control.
The recommendations from Boise State University and the University of Idaho mark the most recent limitations in a state with among of the nation's harshest abortion regulations.
The "No Public Funds for Abortion Act," a law passed by Idaho's Republican-led Legislature in 2021, forbids directing students to abortion clinics or otherwise "promoting" it. Similar to the University of Idaho, Boise State University warned its staff earlier this month that breaking the law could result in felony prosecution. The Associated Press left voicemails with Idaho State University inquiring if it had provided similar advice, but no one returned them.
The rule also prohibits staff members and school-based health clinics from recommending emergency contraception to students or telling them where to get it, with the exception of rape instances. Drugs used as emergency contraception do not function when a woman is already pregnant; they only prevent pregnancy from happening.
The advice provided by the University of Idaho goes a step further and cautions staff members about an 1867-era pre-statehood legislation. Due to this law's ban on providing or "promoting" abortion services and birth control, UI advises that condoms only be provided to prevent STDs, not to prevent pregnancy. The last time lawmakers changed the legislation was in 1974, almost a year after the U.S. Supreme Court's famous Roe v. Wade decision, which declared that women have the right to an abortion.
But since Roe v. Wade has been overruled, state agencies are struggling to sort through a maze of complex legislation governing reproductive health care.
"The canary in the coal mine," according to Rebecca Gibron, CEO of the regional Planned Parenthood group serving Idaho.
WNCTIMES by Marjorie Farrington