Idaho posts free ultrasound list for women seeking abortions
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho has advanced its anti-abortion stronghold once again by publishing a list of places where pregnant women considering abortions can get free ultrasounds.
Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Statehouse pushed for the list earlier this year during the legislative session, where anti-abortion legislation is common and almost always receives the governor’s signature. The state’s GOP supermajority refused requests from minority Democratic members to ensure the information given by the ultrasound providers was medically accurate.
In total, 11 ultrasound providers requested to be included on the state list. Most are crisis pregnancy centers, which discourage women from getting abortions and often are run by religiously affiliated groups.
The state’s three Planned Parenthood clinics were excluded because they do not offer free ultrasounds.
Idaho’s health agency says it has not inspected or certified the centers on the list. State officials also have posted a warning that the information the centers provide should not be used as medical advice and is not endorsed by the state. The list will be updated each Jan. 1.
“Adding that language was a way to let people know that we’re not saying this is going to be a great ultrasound experience,” agency spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr said. “There’s no registry for this type of equipment in Idaho. Anyone can own and operate one.”
Proponents of the law say creating the list simply provides useful information to women contemplating abortions. Critics counter the law is another effort to burden these women.
State officials posted the list at abortioninfo.dhw.idaho.gov and will distribute it to abortion providers. The list includes the ultrasound providers’ contact information, addresses and hours of operation.
Currently, 13 other states require some sort of verbal counseling or written materials that include information on accessing an ultrasound, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports abortion rights.
Separately, Idaho is one of nine states that say if an abortion provider performs an ultrasound, it must give the woman a chance to view it. Idaho also is among 18 states that require clinicians who provide medication abortions to be physically present during the procedure.
The ultrasound providers on Idaho’s list are located throughout the state, but the highest concentration is in highly conservative northern Idaho. No providers are listed in the Idaho Falls region, but advocates are hoping to change that soon.
“Ultrasound imagery is a game changer,” said Brandi Swindell with Boise-based Stanton Health Care, which has two clinics on the list.
Stanton Health Care is working with local lawmakers and community members to open either a permanent or mobile clinic in eastern Idaho in the next year.
“I’m 100 percent pro-life, but in addition to that, I’m also pro-woman,” Swindell said. “Don’t you think women deserve access to a free medical exam?”
Meanwhile, a religiously affiliated Boise clinic was looking for pregnant “models” to help train their staff on how to use newly acquired ultrasound machines as of Monday, the same day the state released the list. According to Path Pregnancy Clinic’s website, the clinic was seeking women six to 20 weeks pregnant to give their volunteer registered nurses hands-on experience.
The clinic did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment from The Associated Press.
More than 1,300 abortions occurred in Idaho in 2013 — a nearly 9 percent decrease from 2010.
The state’s new law is in stark contrast to one passed in California last year. California’s measure was the first statewide rule tightening restrictions on centers that discourage abortions. It requires the centers to provide information about abortions and affordable contraception, as well as disclose to clients if they’re unlicensed.