This is no time to sweep a looming health care crisis under the rug

By Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise
Reader Contributor

All Idahoans want to know their families can access health care when they need it; yet, we are living under a dangerous abortion ban that denies medical care even when health risks are present and threatens doctors with prison time. The criminalization of medical care has damaging consequences that continue to multiply while GOP lawmakers sit idly by. 

Rep. Lauren Necochea. File photo.

Idaho has lost 22% of its practicing obstetric gynecologists since the Republican supermajority’s abortion ban took effect. Over half of the maternal-fetal medicine specialists — doctors trained to manage high-risk pregnancies — have left the state. Labor and delivery services have closed down in Sandpoint, Emmett and now Caldwell. Today, only half of the 44 counties across Idaho have access to practicing obstetricians. 

While this might not yet feel like a crisis to everyday Idahoans, the impacts have been harsh. And the looming crisis will be felt broadly as more physicians leave Idaho and few are willing to replace them. 

This session, doctor and patient advocates hoped they could persuade Republican leaders to create an exception to allow abortion care when patients face health risks — not just imminent death. Our remaining doctors are watching closely to see what will pass as they make decisions about continuing to practice in Idaho. 

But the odds are stacked against common sense and decency. An exception to preserve patient health goes against the Idaho Republican Party’s platform. Last year, a health exception bill got pulled from the agenda suddenly after outcry from the party chair, Dorothy Moon. Meanwhile, Attorney General Raúl Labrador has blocked the narrow allowance we had for abortions in certain medical emergencies due to a court ruling while he appeals that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Last week, when it became clear we were poised to adjourn with no movement on this urgent issue, Democratic lawmakers pleaded for action in a press conference. 

What happened when we highlighted a serious problem voters want us to address? 

Republican politicians canceled the measly bone they had thrown to health care advocates: an informational meeting about our women’s health workforce shortage. Republican leaders blamed Democrats for their decision publicly. Still, this was a decision to bury information about the terrible fallout from their laws. 

Nevertheless, there is hope. That hope rests with voters. Across the country, abortion rights have won everywhere they have been on the ballot since Roe v. Wade was overturned, even in red states. Notably, a Democrat running on safeguarding abortion and IVF access just won a special election for the Alabama Statehouse in a district Trump carried. 

Idaho’s Republican politicians continue to sweep their healthcare mess under the rug. Idahoans must elect leaders dedicated to solutions, not cover-ups.

Rep. Lauren Necochea is the House assistant Democratic leader, representing District 19 in Boise on the Environment, Energy and Technology; Resources and Conservation; Revenue and Taxation; and Ways and Means committees.

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