After the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Idaho outlawed abortions in most cases, apart from medical emergencies and cases of rape or incest that were reported to law enforcement.
Now, about one month after the abortion ban took effect in the state, some people on Twitter are claiming that employees at an Idaho university have been warned that they should not discuss abortion and birth control with students.
Staff were “informed that any discussion about abortion or birth control that was not completely neutral could result in immediate dismissal, a permanent ban from working for the State of Idaho, a felony charge and fines,” one person claimed in a viral tweet on Sept. 25.
Did the University of Idaho warn staff that they could be fired and charged with a crime for promoting abortion or contraception?
- Memo from University of Idaho General Counsel
- Idaho No Public Funds for Abortion Act
- Idaho Code 18-603
- Jodi Walker, director of communications for the University of Idaho
Yes, the University of Idaho warned staff that they could be fired and charged with a crime for promoting abortion or contraception.
WHAT WE FOUND
The University of Idaho recently urged staff members to “remain neutral” in discussions about abortion, warning them that promoting or providing some reproductive health services could result in people being fired or charged with a crime.
In a memo sent by the university’s legal counsel on Sept. 23, staff were told that state law “prohibits them from taking any action, and from using or providing institution funds or facilities” to promote or counsel in favor of abortion or refer students for abortions. Staff are also barred under state law from “advertising or promoting services for abortion or for the prevention of conception,” and dispensing FDA-approved emergency contraceptives such as Plan B, the memo says.
Staff who violate state laws pertaining to abortion and contraception could face misdemeanor or felony convictions, mandatory loss of state employment, and/or a permanent ban from working for the state, the university said.
The memo references Idaho’s No Public Funds for Abortion Act, which says any person, agency or organization that receives state funding, including public school districts, cannot “use those funds to perform or promote abortion, provide counseling in favor of abortion, make referral for abortion, or provide facilities for abortion or for training to provide or perform abortion.”
Any violation of this law could result in a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or both.
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The law is unclear about what it means to “promote abortion,” but “it is clear that university employees are paid with public funds,” Jodi Walker, director of communications for the university, told VERIFY.
“Employees engaging in their course of work in a manner that favors abortion could be deemed as promoting abortion,” Walker wrote in an emailed statement. “While abortion can be discussed as a policy issue in the classroom, we highly recommend employees in charge of the classroom remain neutral or risk violating this law. We support our students and employees, as well as academic freedom, but understand the need to work within the laws set out by our state.”
The university’s guidance on contraceptives comes from another state law that bars people apart from licensed physicians or health care providers from publishing “any notice or advertisement of any medicine or means for producing or facilitating a miscarriage or abortion, or for the prevention of conception.” Those who violate this law are guilty of a felony.
Since this law is unclear about what “prevention of conception” means and violation is a felony, the university said it is “advising a conservative approach” and will not provide “standard birth control.”
“Counseling on birth control, as well as providing the means for birth control, can be done through the licensed physicians and their health care workers at Student Health locations run by Moscow Family Medicine, our Student Health provider,” the university wrote in the memo.
The university has advised staff that they can provide condoms “for the purpose of helping prevent the spread of STDs but not for the purpose of birth control.”
Read the full memo below:
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