The Idaho Freedom Caucus, a group of Republican lawmakers in Idaho's House of Representatives, sent a threatening letter to hospitals in the state. The barely veiled threats suggest the hospitals are hiding abortion records and threaten jail time in addition to fines.
In an especially chilling move, Idaho lawmakers have directly asked hospitals in the state for their abortion records, as the state continues to escalate its war on pregnant people and health care providers. A letter from legislators in the Idaho Freedom Caucus, obtained by Northwest Public Broadcasting this week, shows Republicans questioning the accuracy of abortion data that hospitals in the state have reported to the government, as is required by state law. The letter also chillingly reminds hospitals of the penalties for failing to report abortions: a misdemeanor charge, $1,000 fine, and imprisonment for up to a year.
"Has your hospital performed any of the induced abortions that are required to be reported?" the letter asks. "If so, has your hospital been in compliance with Idaho's induced abortion reporting law? If not, is there a reasonable explanation, and will you please provide your induced abortion data so we can make informed policy decisions?"
The discrepancy in abortion reporting from hospitals, alleged by Idaho Republicans, could actually be explained by a number of factors—namely, that hospitals in rural counties or hospitals with fewer resources often refer abortion-seeking patients to hospitals in larger counties. But, of course, the state's anti-abortion lawmakers seem less interested in a logical explanation than another opportunity to intimidate, surveil, and possibly criminalize health care providers. And while Idaho's abortion ban doesn't explicitly criminalize abortion patients, abortion reporting laws can still put patients and pregnant people at criminal risk, too, given increasing cases of pregnancy-related criminalization.
Per a press release that the hospital, Bonner General Health, shared with Jezebel in March, "The Idaho Legislature continues to 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." And, even more alarmingly, in June, Idaho ended its maternal mortality review committee. The U.S. maintains the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy nations, and states with more abortion restrictions have disproportionately high maternal mortality rates.