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Number of Idahoans traveling to Montana for abortions tripled since ban went into effect

The advocacy group Montanans for Choice has put up 10 billboards across the state, including next to the Idaho border, letting people know abortions and contraception are still legal there. In 2023, the Montana legislature passed nine anti-abortion laws but lawsuits have prevented them from going into effect, leaving a lot of people confused on whether they can still get abortions in the state.
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The advocacy group Montanans for Choice has put up 10 billboards across the state, including next to the Idaho border, letting people know abortions and contraception are still legal there. In 2023, the Montana legislature passed nine anti-abortion laws but lawsuits have prevented them from going into effect, leaving a lot of people confused on whether they can still get abortions in the state.

The number of Idahoans traveling to Montana to receive abortions has tripled in the last year.

After the repeal of Roe v. Wade in 2022, Idaho banned abortions in most cases, with exceptions for rape, incest or if the life of the mother is in danger. Residents seeking care have turned to alternatives, including traveling to neighboring states with fewer restrictions.

Prior to the Dobbs’ decision, remote areas of north eastern Idaho did not have abortion clinics so patients closest to the border were already going to Montana for care.

“For years we've had patients coming from Idaho to get abortion care in Montana but there's certainly been an increase in the two years since Idaho has banned all abortions,” said Chief medical officer at Montana’s Planned Parenthood and abortion provider Samuel Dickman.

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, in 2021, 28 Idahoans traveled to Montana to receive abortions. In 2022, that number rose to 32. In 2023, the first year Idaho’s ban was in full effect, 88 patients went to Montana to access care.

“That’s because a patient in Pocatello previously might have been able to travel to Boise for care, and now that's just not an option so we see patients from eastern Idaho, northern Idaho and honestly all over Idaho,” Dickman said. “Even the Boise area for patients who aren't able to get over to Oregon or Utah.”

In 2022, 115 Idahoans went to Utah to receive an abortion, compared to 63 in 2021. Last year’s numbers are not yet available for the state.

It’s unclear how many Idahoans are traveling out-of-state now that the ban is in place. Citing shield laws, Washington and Oregon have stopped sharing their abortion-related data with any state, county or government entity that restricts abortion access.

In 2023, the Montana legislature passed nine anti-abortion laws but lawsuits have prevented them from going into effect. That has left a lot of people confused on whether they can still access care in the state and prompted an advocacy group to put billboards up letting the public know abortions and contraception are still legal there.

Dickman said while Idahoans can find help out-of-state, traveling to access an abortion is often an ordeal.

“Often, they've been calling clinics and nearby states. They’ve called clinics in Utah but Utah has a really, really burdensome set of restrictions. They might have called the clinic that used to be in Jackson, Wyoming, but is no longer providing abortion care,” he said, adding it is common for patients to get emotional.

“By the time they've made it to our clinic, even if they've had to drive hours and hours and take time off work and find child care and figure out transportation still, after all of that, patients are frankly, just often overcome with relief,” he said.

Dickman said those logistical barriers mean abortion bans disproportionately affect low-income women and minors who do not have the resources or support to travel across state lines.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio News

Julie Luchetta
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