Who Will Care for Idahoans?

By Elana King-Nakaoka

The Idaho Supreme Court ruled that Idaho’s near-total abortion ban can go into effect in a matter
of days. The Court said that the petitioners who challenged the new laws failed to prove that
enforcing the ban would cause “irreparable harm.” 1
The Court is profoundly wrong. As a concerned Idaho medical student, I strongly oppose these
new laws because they will cause irreparable harm. At graduation, I will swear an oath to do no
harm or injustice to my patients. Idaho’s abortion ban is at odds with this oath.
Abortion care saves lives every day, and we are already seeing the dangerous consequences of
restrictive abortion bans in Texas and Ohio. Even though these new bans allow doctors to defend
themselves from prosecution in the cases of rape, incest, and life-threatening scenarios; pregnant
patients are being denied care for miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications due
to physicians’ fear and confusion about the new laws. 2 The fear is justified. For example, once
the Idaho ban takes effect, “any healthcare professional who performs, attempts to perform or
assists in performing an abortion […] will face imprisonment and professional license suspension
or permanent license revocation.” 3
In America, being pregnant is already one of the most dangerous experiences of a person’s life.
Our country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Hundreds of patients
die each year and over 50,000 are severely injured due to childbirth and pregnancy
complications. 4
Miscarriage management and ectopic pregnancy treatment can be identical to abortion care.
Abortion is also the best treatment for numerous medical issues a person may face during their
pregnancy, making it an essential medical service. Idaho’s abortion ban makes all
pregnancies—wanted or unwanted—more dangerous by putting politics before medicine. It
compromises physicians’ ability to treat patients appropriately and forces us to choose between
protecting either our licenses or our patients. This is a terrible choice that no doctor should have
to make.
Idaho currently ranks 50th in the nation—dead last—in active physicians per capita. 5 As a

1 https://isc.idaho.gov/opinions/49615.pdf
2 https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/abortion-laws-spark-profound-medical-care-86934259
3 https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/doj-alleges-idaho-abortion-law-violates-5045420/
4 https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/preventing-pregnancy-related-
5 https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/workforce/this-state-has-the-most-physicians-per-capita.html

lifetime Idaho resident who cherishes my state and community, I am expected to help offset this
shortage by being a member of the next generation of Idaho physicians. In fact, I have long-
prided myself on my commitment to providing healthcare in my home state once I complete
Yet, this Idaho abortion ban will have a chilling effect on recruitment and retention of healthcare
providers in our state. To put it bluntly—as a passionate young doctor, why would I choose to
practice medicine in a place where physicians are criminalized for providing essential, evidence-
based, life-saving healthcare? Why would I stay somewhere where I can be arrested and
imprisoned for doing my job?
I very well may not, and I am not alone in this quandary. The concerns expressed in this letter
are shared by over 70 medical-trainee colleagues from across the state.
So I ask you the next question, lawmakers of Idaho. Who will care for the people of Idaho?

The views expressed in this article are those of an individual. They are supported by over 70
Idaho medical students and trainees who will remain anonymous due to Idaho laws that may
limit speech relating to abortion. 6 The opinions do not reflect those of any medical or
educational institution or employee.

6 https://legislature.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/sessioninfo/2021/legislation/H0220.pdf

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