Southern Idahoans disproportionately affected if Roe overturned

By Melissa Davlin and Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

If the United States Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, most abortion will become illegal in Idaho, due to a trigger law passed in 2021. But depending on where they live, that law won’t affect Idahoans equally. 

Earlier this week, POLITICO reported on a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, which would overrule the two decisions that currently guarantee federal protections for abortion access. While the final opinion isn’t expected until this summer, the leaked draft has prompted protests and discussion of what a post-Roe future will look like.

Should the court overturn Roe v Wade, the Idaho law that will take effect would make it a felony for any health care provider to conduct an illegal abortion. It would be a crime punishable by two to five years in prison. The law does have exceptions for the life of the mother and pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, but the rape must be reported to law enforcement and a victim must provide a copy of the police report to the provider.

In 2020, Idaho residents received a total of 2,007 abortions, according to the Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics. Of those, 1,574 happened in Idaho, meaning 433 women went out of state to get their abortions. 

Most of those 433 people lived north of Riggins and traveled to Washington. Data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare shows nearly all abortion-seeking residents of public health districts 1 and 2 – north and north central Idaho – already go out of state to do so. While Coeur d’Alene, Moscow and Lewiston don’t have abortion clinics, communities just across the border in Pullman and Spokane do, and clinics in Washington provided 359 abortions to Idaho residents in 2020.

Source: Bureau of Vital Statistics, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare


A small number of women elsewhere in Idaho traveled out-of-state for abortions in 2020, with 44 going to Utah, 15 to Oregon, 14 to Montana, and one to an unspecified state. However, most southern Idaho women who sought abortions stayed in Idaho.

Idaho’s three abortion clinics are located in Ada and Twin Falls counties. If those clinics can no longer provide abortions, nearly all of those women will have to decide between continuing their pregnancies or traveling elsewhere to get an abortion. As Idaho’s trigger law is written, there is currently no prohibition on traveling to another state for abortion services.

In Oregon, the closest abortion clinic is located in Bend, which is a five hour drive from Boise. In April, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that Planned Parenthood is looking into opening a clinic in Ontario, just across the border from Idaho, but that timeline isn’t clear. Treasure Valley residents could also look to Walla Walla, Washington, which is about four hours away. Utah requires a 72-hour waiting period between a patient’s first appointment and their scheduled abortion.  

Idaho Reports will have more on what a post-Roe v Wade Idaho might look like on our May 6th episode. Idaho Reports airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on Idaho Public Television, and is available online after it airs on idahoptv.org/idahoreports.

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