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Idaho Hospital Ends Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery Care, Blames State Abortion Laws

'The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,' said Bonner General Health

A hospital serving Northern Idaho announced it would no longer offer pregnancy or labor and delivery care because of state laws restricting abortion and insufficient staffing. 

Bonner General Health in Sandpoint announced on March 17 that its obstetric services will be terminated in May, asserting the decision was made out of concern for patients’ safety.

“Highly respected, talented physicians are leaving. Recruiting replacements will be extraordinarily difficult,” the hospital said in its press release

“The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,” the statement continued. “Consequences for Idaho Physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.”

Under current Idaho law, abortion is prohibited after six weeks of pregnancy with exceptions only in the case of rape, incest, or danger to a mother’s life. The state’s Supreme Court upheld the law’s constitutionality in January. The court said Idaho had a “legitimate interest in protecting prenatal fetal life in all stages of development, and in protecting the health and safety of the mother.”

Pro-abortion groups had argued that the state constitution implied a right to abortion, per Politico

“We emphasize that all we are deciding today is that the Idaho Constitution, as it currently stands, does not include a fundamental right to abortion,” wrote Justice Robyn Brody, who authored the majority opinion. 

State-level abortion regulations have been hotly debated since the United States Supreme Court struck down the precedent set by 1973’s Roe v. Wade in June of 2022.

BGH noted it had lost the staff needed to offer the pediatric care required for infants at the time of delivery.

“Without pediatrician coverage to manage neonatal resuscitations and perinatal care, it is unsafe and unethical to offer routine Labor and Delivery services,” said the hospital in a statement to The Spokesman-Review. “Our low patient volume is insufficient to attract candidates for pediatric hospitalists, and we cannot afford to continue having locum tenens physicians.”

The hospital also cited a decrease in its annual number of deliveries and Bonner County’s aging population. In 2022, 265 babies were delivered at BGH. 

The hospital’s women’s clinic immediately stopped taking new patients and said it aims to no longer offer delivery services after May 19, contingent on staffing availabilities. 

“The closure of obstetrics will not be an easy transition for our Bonner General Health teams or our community and surrounding area,” the hospital said. 

Patients in need of care may be directed to Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, 50 miles from Sandpoint Women’s Health. Newport Hospital in Washington expressed willingness to assist patients in need, although KXLY noted Newport has been sending active labor patients to Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, which is about 70 miles from Bonner County.

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