University of Idaho says staff can offer condoms for STDs – not birth control

Memo warns employees they should not speak in support of abortion following state ban on procedure

Condoms should only be provided to students to prevent sexually transmitted infections, not as birth control, according to a memo sent by the University of Idaho to staff last week.

The memo, first obtained by the Idaho Press and issued to all employees on Friday, laid out the university’s reproductive policies following the enactment of Idaho’s abortion law, which bans the procedure in nearly all cases.

The memo further warned employees that they could not speak in support of abortion and should “proceed cautiously at any time that a discussion moves in the direction of reproductive health”, reported the Hill.

The advice on birth control was included because of the law’s lack of clarity on “prevention of conception”, the university said, according to the Idaho Capital Sun.

Staff have been prohibited from recommending or referring abortion to a student. Employees have also been told not to issue emergency contraception – the so-called morning after pill, also known as Plan B – except in cases of rape.

Standard birth control pills will reportedly still be distributed at student health centers, which are administered by Moscow Family Health, not the university itself. The university does not provide abortion services.

It warned that any staff recommending abortion to students risked a felony conviction and could be banned from any future state employment.

“Since violation is considered a felony, we are advising a conservative approach here,” read the memo.

Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion only has exceptions for rape or when a person’s life is in danger. It went into effect on 25 August and faced a lawsuit from the US Department of Justice, which argued it could prevent doctors from using the procedure in medical emergencies.

The university said it was issuing its recommendations that staff stay neutral on abortion to avoid punishment because of another law passed in 2021, the No Public Funds for Abortion Act, which bars state employees and officials from recommending abortions.

“This is a challenging law for many and has real ramifications for individuals in that it calls for individual criminal prosecution. This guidance was sent to help our employees understand the legal significance and possible actions of this new law passed by the Idaho legislature,” Jodi Walker, the executive director of communications at the university, told the Washington Post.

Not all universities in anti-abortion states are following suit, however. Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where a near-total ban on abortion went into effect in August, has said it will continue providing birth control methods and emergency contraception to students, reported the Post.


Gloria Oladipo

The GuardianTramp

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