NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

University of Idaho warns its staff: Promoting reproductive healthcare could be a felony

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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