- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Backers of a newly proposed measure requiring Idaho doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital admitting privileges say the bill is needed to better women’s safety in the event of a botched procedure.

However, the bill -which a handful of states have already passed- is poised to a set a high bar for the state’s abortion providers to clear, leading some to argue that the legislation is a clever attempt by anti-abortion supporters to shut down the few abortion clinics in Idaho.

Elizabeth Nash with the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports abortion rights, says the bill an Idaho Senate panel introduced Thursday is unnecessary because hospital emergency rooms are required to admit all patients.

If the measure passes, physicians who perform abortions would have to forge a relationship with a hospital in the hopes of gaining privileges to treat patients there. Meanwhile, hospitals are under no obligation or incentive to hand them over.

“It doesn’t protect women’s health when you adopt a law so impossible for providers to meet,” Nash said. “What you’re left with is a backdoor way to claim women’s health to close abortion clinics, and we’re seeing it across the country.”

Similar versions of the law have been struck down in Mississippi and blocked in Alabama, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. The law is legal in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Texas -although Texas’ version is being challenged and awaiting a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court.

The bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Lee Heider and Dr. David McClusky, a practicing physician from Twin Falls since 1982 and former chair of the Idaho State Board of Medicine. Twin Falls County was one of two counties in Idaho where abortions were performed in 2012, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

McClusky told the Senate panel on Thursday that one of the benefits of the bill is that it will stop traveling doctors from coming to Twin Falls, or other cities, simply to perform an abortion.

“If you’re a woman in Twin Falls and this is the only way you can get an abortion, then you might say we’re taking that privilege or right away so that’s the void (visiting physicians) fill,” McClusky said. “But this is not a group of people who practice with the ethics that I think they should.”

In 2012, more than 1,400 abortions were performed in Idaho - roughly 250 of those were in Twin Falls while the rest were in Idaho’s much more populated Ada County.

McClusky did not return calls from The Associated Press on Friday.

Planned Parenthood currently operates three clinics in Idaho where women can obtain abortions, all in the southern half of the state. The clinics are in Boise, Meridian and Twin Falls.

Hannah Brass Greer, legislative director for Planned Parenthood in Idaho, said nearly 70 percent of Idaho women do not have access to abortion services in the county in which they live.

“Abortions are an extremely safe procedure. In the first trimester, where most abortions take place, there’s less than a 0.05 percent chance of something going wrong,” Brass Greer said.

If something does go wrong, the physician is able to address it at the clinic, she said.

Brass Greer added that she was still determining how many providers at the three clinics did not have admitting privileges as of Friday.

“It’s not a quick and easy process,” she said. “There are a lot of requirements to obtain and to continue those admitting privileges. I’m not an expert on this issue, but I will be.”

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