UPDATED: Idaho Freedom Caucus asked hospitals for abortion records

Photo via Pixabay



By Rachel Sun and Laura Guido

This story was updated to add comments from Rep. Heather Scott.

A letter sent by the Idaho Freedom Caucus to Idaho hospitals on June 15 questions hospitals’ accuracy in reporting abortions, and lists Idaho’s legal penalties for failure to report abortions, which can include a misdemeanor charge, $1,000 fine, and imprisonment no more than a year. 

“Has your hospital performed any of the induced abortions that are required to be reported?” the letter states. “If so, has your hospital been in compliance with Idaho’s induced abortion reporting law? If not, is there a reasonable explanation, and will you please provide your induced abortion data so we can make informed policy decisions?”

The letter requests responses be sent directly to Senator Scott Herndon. He signed it, along with Senators Cindy Carlson, Brian Lenney, Tammy Nichols and Genneda Zuiderveld, and Representatives Joe Alfieri, Jacyn Gallagher, Dale Hawkins, Mike Kingsley, Elaine Price, Heather Scott and Tony Wisniewski.

Greg Morrison, a spokesperson for the Idaho Hospital Association, said it was unexpected for legislators to send a direct request to hospitals.

“It really seemed like an unusual request going around the Department of Health and Welfare to get information that is protected by state law,” he said. “Other than that, we really don’t have a comment.”

The letter stems from testimony by Ken McClure, the legal counsel for the Idaho Medical Association, in which he stated during a March 29 hearing for HB 374 that hospitals needed the freedom to deal with pregnancy complications without fear of legal prosecution.

HB 374, which was signed into law this year, clarifies Idaho’s criminal abortion laws and creates legal exceptions that explicitly allow physicians to provide abortions for ectopic and molar pregnancies, and adds protections for physicians and patients when abortions are performed in the case of rape of incest.

In the letter, the IFC pointed to an apparent discrepancy between McClure’s statement and reported abortions, pointing to the fact that only five of the state’s 44 counties reported abortions in the past 11 years, with the highest number being in Ada County with 12,723 and Twin Falls County with 2,716.

According to IFC’s letter:

“Ada County and Twin Falls Counties had well-publicized standalone abortion facilities over the 11 years of reporting through 2021 at the time when Idaho’s current criminal abortion laws were not in effect.”

Part of that discrepancy could be due to hospitals in rural counties transferring patients with pregnancy complications to larger hospitals. 

Another possible explanation could be hospitals categorizing elective abortions versus emergency care to save the life of the mother separately.

Rep. Heather Scott, who co-chairs IFC, said in a statement that the letter was in response to IMA requesting more access to abortion, and that no form of induced abortion is exempt from Idaho’s reporting laws.

“Even Kootenai Health in CDA is reporting essentially zero induced abortions over the last 11 years,” Scott wrote. “Either the hospitals like Kootenai Health are doing no abortions, even in medical emergencies, or they have not been following the mandatory induced abortion reporting law.”