On Fri­day, Sep­tem­ber 23rd, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ida­ho sent a warn­ing to its employ­ees that pro­mot­ing abor­tion or con­tra­cep­tion while on the job could be a felony. It also said that the uni­ver­si­ty would no longer make con­tra­cep­tives avail­able, cit­ing state laws that pro­hib­it pub­lic funds from being used on abor­tion and the adver­tise­ment of any con­tra­cep­tive or abor­tion-relat­ed drugs.

“In this new and evolv­ing legal land­scape, how these laws will be enforced remains unclear,” the guid­ance states.

“Accord­ing­ly, the uni­ver­si­ty and employ­ees should be aware of the poten­tial risks and penal­ties asso­ci­at­ed with con­duct that may be per­ceived to vio­late the laws.”

The university’s Office of Gen­er­al Coun­sel also pro­vid­ed guid­ance for employ­ees on how to com­ply with state laws reg­u­lat­ing abor­tion and con­tra­cep­tion, not­ing the school is “…com­mit­ted to oper­at­ing with­in the con­fines of laws.”

The guid­ance states that employ­ees can­not pro­mote, per­form, coun­sel in favor of  or refer patients for abor­tions, dis­pense abor­tion drugs, pro­vide facil­i­ties for abor­tions, dis­pense emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion except in cas­es of rape, con­tract with abor­tion providers or adver­tise or pro­mote “…ser­vices for abor­tion or the pre­ven­tion of conception.”

Vio­lat­ing the law could result in mis­de­meanor or felony charges, which could include up to five years of prison time, being forced to repay state funds, ter­mi­na­tion and being barred from future state employment.

The uni­ver­si­ty cit­ed the state’s No Pub­lic Funds for Abor­tion Act, which was enact­ed in May 2021 and pro­hibits state funds from being used to pro­mote or per­form abor­tions, and includes spe­cif­ic pro­vi­sions stat­ing no pub­lic school tuition fees can be used to pay for abor­tions or coun­sel in favor of them.

The guid­ance also said the school would not pro­vide “stan­dard birth con­trol,” cit­ing uncer­tain­ty around the para­me­ters of a sep­a­rate state law that pro­hibits any­one from adver­tis­ing or pro­vid­ing notice of “any med­i­cine or means for pro­duc­ing or facil­i­tat­ing a mis­car­riage or abor­tion, or for the pre­ven­tion of conception.”

The laws cit­ed in the university’s guid­ance are sep­a­rate from an abor­tion ban in the state that took effect in August that out­laws near­ly all abor­tions in the state except in the case of med­ical emer­gen­cies. The Biden admin­is­tra­tion sued Ida­ho over its ban and suc­cess­ful­ly restrict­ed part of the law, requir­ing abor­tions to still be per­formed in med­ical emer­gen­cies that aren’t life-threatening.

Planned Par­ent­hood react­ed to the uni­ver­si­ty’s move in a state­ment sent to NPI.

State­ment from Rebec­ca Gibron, CEO of Planned Par­ent­hood Great North­west, Hawai’i, Alas­ka, Indi­ana, Kentucky

We always knew extrem­ists wouldn’t stop at ban­ning abortion.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Idaho’s announce­ment is the canary in the coal mine, an ear­ly sign of the larg­er, coor­di­nat­ed effort to attack [preg­nan­cy pre­ven­tion] access. Across the coun­try, we are see­ing law­mak­ers and extrem­ists say­ing the qui­et part out loud, by erod­ing con­tra­cep­tion access and even call­ing on the Supreme Court to over­turn the con­sti­tu­tion­al right to [fam­i­ly planning].”

Here in Ida­ho, these attacks have already begun. Ear­li­er this year, Ida­ho law­mak­ers said they’d con­sid­er ban­ning IUDs and emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion in the 2023 leg­isla­tive ses­sion. And the same day that law­mak­ers vot­ed to ban abor­tion, they also reject­ed a bill that would have made it eas­i­er for peo­ple in Ida­ho to access [con­tra­cep­tives].

These attacks… are not the­o­ret­i­cal. They are already hap­pen­ing. And the Uni­ver­si­ty of Idaho’s new pol­i­cy is just the lat­est exam­ple of extrem­ists and dra­con­ian laws threat­en­ing to strip us of all con­trol over their repro­duc­tive healthcare.

Repro­duc­tive health­care remains legal in Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, Ida­ho’s west­ern neigh­bors, for now. Repub­li­cans like Lind­sey Gra­ham have pro­posed a fed­er­al ban on abor­tion care after fif­teen weeks. Many ultra MAGA Repub­li­cans also enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly sup­port a fed­er­al ban on contraception.

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