Idaho hospital says it is ending labor and delivery services amid 'political climate'

The hospital said it will stop providing care by mid-May.

March 22, 2023, 3:43 PM

An Idaho hospital said it will no longer be providing obstetrical care due in part to the state's "legal and political climate" -- obliquely referring to recent restrictions on abortions.

In a news release, Bonner General Health in Sandpoint -- 400 miles north of Boise and serving about 9,000 people -- said it would end its labor & delivery services by mid-May.

"We have made every effort to avoid eliminating these services," Ford Elsaesser, BGH's board president, said in a statement. "We hoped to be the exception, but our challenges are impossible to overcome now."

The release cited several reasons for the maternity ward closure including a loss of pediatricians to provide neonatal and perinatal care, fewer babies being born at the hospital and the changing political landscape.

Without specifically referencing the state's abortion laws, the hospital said the legal and political climate was causing physicians to leave the hospital and it was becoming difficult to recruit replacements.

PHOTO: Bonner General Health in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Bonner General Health in Sandpoint, Idaho.
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"In addition, the Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care," the news release stated. "Physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fine.

In March 2022, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Idaho became the first state to enact a law modeled after the legislation passed in Texas that bans abortions after six weeks, before many women know they're pregnant.

There are exceptions for medical emergencies as well as incest or rape, but women are required to file a police report and show it to the medical provider before the abortion for the latter two.

Additionally, a provider has to prove in court that an abortion fell under the exception criteria, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The law also allows the father, grandparents, siblings, uncles or aunts of the fetus to sue a medical provider who performs the procedure.

The abortion ban was temporarily blocked but went into effect in August. At the time, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that the temporary injunction would "prevent serious harm to women in Idaho."

BGH said it will continue delivering babies through May 19, but the day may be pushed up if staffing changes.

The hospital is not accepting any new obstetrics patients, effective immediately, and will be coordinating care for women scheduled to deliver in May or later.

BGH posted a list referring patients to new OB/GYN providers, with the closest being Newport Hospital in Newport, Washington, about 30 miles away.

The hospital did not immediately return ABC News' request for comment.