It’s the perfect headline for the major media’s preferred narrative, which means two things: Nearly every outlet will pick it up, and it’s mostly bogus.
“Idaho hospital to stop delivering babies as doctors flee over abortion ban,” the Guardian said. “Near-total ban on abortions is driving doctors away, hospital says, leading to lack of nearby labor and delivery care for thousands.”
The Today Show reported it this way: “Idaho hospital closes its maternity ward, citing the state’s ‘political climate.’ Idaho has a strict abortion ban. People living in Sandpoint, Idaho will now have to drive at least 46 miles to find the nearest hospital offering perinatal care.”
The Washington Post mentioned the other relevant factors in this one hospital’s closure but still misleadingly classified this as an “abortion” story. A dozen other outlets all carried this story about a rural hospital’s closure. This was the sort of story they never would carry under normal circumstances, except that this is all abortion propaganda.
Maternity wards have been closing all over the United States for more than a decade, primarily for a simple reason: People have been having fewer babies every year since 2007. There were fewer children in America at the 2020 census than there were in the 2010 census. Of course, a country with less maternity will be a country with fewer maternity wards.
Rural maternity wards have been especially hard-hit, in part because the economics of labor and delivery are particularly off-kilter.
Next door to Idaho, in completely abortion-friendly Washington state, Astria Toppenish Hospital closed its maternity ward three days before Christmas last year. This closure was the centerpiece in an exhaustive New York Times feature on rural hospitals closing their maternity wards nationwide. The word “abortion” doesn’t appear even once in this piece.
Check out that New York Times piece from just last month:
“The closure in Toppenish mirrors national trends as financially strained hospitals come to a harsh conclusion: Childbirth doesn’t pay, at least not in low-income communities. “From 2015 to 2019, there were at least 89 obstetric unit closures in rural hospitals across the country. By 2020, about half of rural community hospitals did not provide obstetrics care, according to the American Hospital Association. “In the past year, the closures appear to have accelerated, as hospitals from Maine to California have jettisoned maternity units, mostly in rural areas where the population has dwindled and the number of births has declined. “A study of hospital administrators carried out before the pandemic found that 20 percent of them said they did not expect to be providing labor and delivery services in five years’ time.”
The closure of rural hospitals’ obstetrics and maternity wards has nothing to do with laws that protect the unborn, as evidenced by the closures “from Maine to California.”
Returning to Bonner County, Idaho, let’s look at the numbers. In 2005, 346 babies were born in Bonner County. In 2022, it was only 265. That’s a 23% reduction, which is consistent with what was happening even before the pandemic.
The press release Bonner Health sent out admitted that falling demand was central to the closure: “We delivered 265 babies in 2022 and admitted less than ten pediatric patients for other reasons. There are many reasons, including a nationwide decrease in births, an older population moving to Bonner County, and Kootenai Health (a nearby alternative) having a new, updated unit with Neonatologists and OBs in-house 24/7.”
Yet the news media saw a chance to write a story about abortion, and they took the bait. Every time a story fits so perfectly into the worldview and ideology of the average news editor, you should assume that it is bogus.