Idaho hospital will stop delivering babies as doctors flee state due to abortion ban
Near-total ban on abortions is driving doctors away, hospital says, leading to lack of nearby labor and delivery care for thousands
An Idaho hospital has planned to stop delivering babies, with the medical center’s managers citing increasing criminalization of physicians and the inability to retain pediatricians as major reasons.
Bonner General Health, the only hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho, announced on Friday that it would no longer provide labor, delivery and a host of other obstetrical services.
The more than 9,000 residents of Sandpoint are now forced to drive 46 miles for the nearest labor and delivery care, the Idaho Statesman reported.
In a statement, the hospital’s leadership said that the decision to eliminate the obstetrics unit stemmed from the “political climate” in Idaho.
“Highly respected, talented physicians are leaving. Recruiting replacements will be extraordinarily difficult,” hospital officials said in a press release.
“We have made every effort to avoid eliminating these services,” the hospital’s board president, Ford Elsaesser, added in the statement.
“We hoped to be the exception, but our challenges are impossible to overcome now.”
The hospital’s statement also said that the closure comes as the number of deliveries at Bonner continues to decline, with only 265 babies delivered in 2022 and fewer than 10 pediatric patients admitted.
The hospital also lacks enough pediatricians to manage its neonatal resuscitations and perinatal care, finding no permanent solution after reaching out to active and retired physicians to fill vacancies.
Hospital officials are hoping to keep obstetrics services available until 19 May but noted that it largely depends on staffing.
New patients are no longer being seen at the hospital, effective immediately, while current clients are being offered alternative referrals.
Since the supreme court in June eliminated the nationwide abortion rights that Roe v wade established, states with total abortion bans have passed laws that threaten possible prison time for doctors who perform abortions in violation of state law.
The supreme court decision legalized an Idaho state ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The state is the first to pass a copy of Texas’s controversial bill. It is also one of six that prosecutes doctors for providing the procedure, CBS News reported.
In August, the justice department filed a lawsuit against Idaho for its near-total ban on abortions, with doctors in the state writing in a court brief that physicians were often forced to choose between violating the state ban or federal healthcare law, the Associated Press reported.
The implication of the ban is driving doctors out of the state, the Bonner hospital’s press release noted.
“The Idaho legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,” the hospital’s statement added.
“Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.”
Dr Amelia Huntsberger, a Bonner General Health obstetrician-gynecologist, wrote in an email to the Statesman that she would be leaving the hospital and the state because of its restrictive abortion laws and because the Idaho legislature was terminating its maternal mortality review committee.
“What a sad, sad state of affairs for our community,” Huntsberger wrote, according to the Statesman.
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*Content from TheGuardian.com