We were taught in medical school to take an obstetric history from our pregnant patients or ones considering pregnancy. We were taught to ask of prior pregnancies and their outcomes. If there were miscarriages, they were called “spontaneous abortions”. That would be shortened to “Sab” in the medical shorthand we learned back when doctors completed the medical record with pens and paper. If the pregnancy ended in an “elective termination” it was shortened to “EAb”. We also recorded the live births, the number of living children, and the methods of birth, the size of the babies and the natures of the labors. All these details are helpful in caring for the pregnancy.
In my first year in the legislature, Idaho passed an antiabortion bill. Many more followed. They too got shorthand descriptions. There was the “Fetal Pain” bill, the “Ultrasound” bill and on and on.
We now have many of these bills in Idaho Statute. We have a “Trigger Bill”, and we have the “Texas Bill”. I could try to explain each of these to you, but you would very soon get lost in their details and their definitions. You see, many of them conflict in what they say.
For instance, the “Fetal Pain” bill, now statute, defines the term of gestation of a pregnancy from conception. It is standard medical practice to define the age of gestation from the first day of the last menstrual period. That’s a difference of about two weeks, most of the time.
I knew the Idaho Legislature passed a “Trigger Bill” in 2020 that made most abortions illegal soon as Roe Vs Wade was overturned. I also knew the legislature passed the “Texas Bill” this session. I wondered if they conflicted in their definitions. I tried to find it in Idaho Statutes, the online website this June after Roe vs Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court. It was not in the online statutes.
I called the Legislative Services Office and was told the statutes had not been updated. They would be July 1st, when most bills are enacted, the new fiscal year for the State.
“But it had an Emergency Clause”, I pointed out. I could read the bill on the website, but it had not been incorporated into the online statutes. The law was written to say it would take effect when the Governor signed it. Governor Little signed it in March. So, a doctor, at this moment in Idaho, would not know what is illegal or permitted for a pregnant woman considering her pregnancy. And we are expected to counsel our patients?
I know what the Idaho legislature would tell her. Maybe they should set up a clinic. They sure don’t update their website.
It is a weird, twisted, and confusing landscape we are in right now as states try to sort out just how they feel about this deeply personal, but important issue. Look at the Deep Red Kansas vote on a Constitutional Initiative to remove the “Right to an Abortion”. And then look at the Idaho Republican Party’s refusal to consider the life of the mother when abortion is taken off the table.
We were taught, as young medical students, to ask these probing questions so we could provide better care. We were taught that we would receive the most honest answers if we could ask these questions without judgement. I hope it is not news to you that patients don’t always tell their doctors, even themselves, the truth.
The judgement of Idaho Republicans is pretty clear. The life of the embryo, no matter the gestation, is more important than the life of the woman growing that baby.
The judgement of the Idaho Legislature is less clear. They have been in a frenzy to beat their chest about “outlawing” abortion for so long they have lost sight of the complicated nuances of bringing a new life into this world.