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Washington clinics brace for effects of Idaho's near-total abortion ban

caption: The Idaho State Capitol building in Boise.
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The Idaho State Capitol building in Boise.
Colleen Benelli / Flickr

Clinics in Washington state that provide abortions are bracing for an influx of patients from Idaho, now that most abortions are illegal in that state.

The only exceptions to the ban are cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the pregnant person.

A judge ruled on Wednesday that under federal law, providers also have to be allowed to terminate pregnancies if it’s necessary to protect the patient’s health. But it’s on providers to prove that any given abortion fits under one of the exceptions — and if they’re found guilty of “criminal abortion,” providers face two to five years in prison.

That’s the new legal landscape that clinics, advocates, and Washington’s attorney general say will prompt most Idaho residents seeking an abortion to head to Washington or Oregon.

Patients from states like Texas are already heading to clinics in western Washington and Oregon for abortions.

Idaho residents are more likely to head to eastern Washington and Oregon, putting pressure on small communities like Bend and Walla Walla that already have limited health care resources, and potentially causing long waits for Washington state residents seeking abortions.

“It’s hard to grapple with the reality of how things are going to change,” said Iris Alatorre, with the Northwest Abortion Access Fund. “I can’t even begin to imagine how our abortion providers are going to have the capacity to take all of that on.”

Waiting extra days or weeks for an abortion can be emotionally difficult and also expensive, because later abortions cost more.

Many abortions are now done with the medications Mifepristone and Misoprostol. But it’s not legal to prescribe those drugs across state lines via telemedicine, so Idaho residents will still have to travel out of state to obtain the pills legally.

That said, it is possible to obtain the pills online illegally, and advocates expect some Idaho residents might choose that path.

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