Idaho city’s only hospital blames anti-abortion laws as it ends obstetrical services

The only hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho, has announced it will no longer provide obstetrical services, blaming stringent restrictions on reproductive care enacted by the state’s government.

“Without pediatrician coverage to manage neonatal resuscitations and perinatal care, it is unsafe and unethical to offer routine labor and delivery services,” Bonner General Health said in a statement.

The hospital said that the decision to remove obstetrical services was an “emotional and difficult” one, citing the loss of pediatrician coverage, changing demographics and the state’s recent laws surrounding abortion.

According to the Idaho Statesman, which first reported the change at Bonner General, Idaho has one of the most severe bans on abortion in the U.S., with state physicians facing felony charges and revocation of their licenses if they violate the law.

“Highly respected, talented physicians are leaving. Recruiting replacements will be extraordinarily difficult,” the hospital said in its news release. “In addition, the Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care. Consequences for Idaho Physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.”

The hospital noted that it plans to continue providing women’s health services and to coordinate care for “OB patients scheduled to deliver in May and after.”

Sandpoint has a reported population of more than 9,000 people.

“Lastly, thank you all for the decades of partnership and for entrusting your care with our outstanding Obstetricians and Labor & Delivery staff on our team,” the hospital said in its news release. “The closure of obstetrics will not be an easy transition for our Bonner General Health teams or our community and surrounding area.”

GOP-led states across the country moved to sharply curtain abortion after the Supreme Court struck down the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision last year. Advocates and health care groups have repeatedly warned of the risks such moves pose to women’s health.

“We have made every effort to avoid eliminating these services,” Ford Elsaesser, the president of Bonner General’s board said in its statement. “We hoped to be the exception, but our challenges are impossible to overcome now.”

Bonner General delivered 265 babies in 2022, according to the Statesman.

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