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Idaho university prohibits staff from promoting, discussing abortion due to state laws: Report

(MOSCOW, Idaho) — The University of Idaho is prohibiting staff from promoting or providing abortion services while performing their jobs, warning they could be fired or face misdemeanor or felony convictions if they do, according to an email reportedly sent to staff on Sept. 23.

The university told staff they cannot take any action, use or provide institution funds or facilities to: promote abortion; provide or perform an abortion; counsel in favor of abortion; provide referrals for abortion; provide facilities for an abortion or for training to provide an abortion; dispense emergency contraceptives (except for cases of rape); contract with abortion providers; or advertise or promote services for abortion or for the prevention of conception, the Idaho Press reported citing an email it said it had obtained.

The university, according to the report, also advised staff not to provide standard birth control as a state law apparently makes it a felony to advertise or promote any medication or means for the “prevention of contraception.” Licensed physicians and health care providers at student health centers will still be allowed to counsel on and provide birth control. The school’s Counseling and Testing Center will be handling guidance for conversations about abortion that fall under doctor-patient confidentiality, according to a copy of the memo published by the Idaho Press.

The university claimed the new guidance aims to make sure it operates within the confines of state laws, according to the memo obtained by the Idaho Press.

Idaho began enforcing its trigger ban on Aug. 25, banning nearly all abortions in the state, with the exception of abortions necessary to preserve the life of the mother.

If a discussion between a staff member and a student moves to the topic of abortion, staff are instructed to tell students that Idaho law prohibits the university and its employees from counseling in favor of abortion, referring for abortion or promoting abortion,the Idaho Press reported, citing the memo it says it obtained.

Staff will be allowed to direct students to sources of information outside the university and hold classroom discussions on topics related to abortion “when limited to discussions and topics relevant to the class subject,” according to the memo released by the Idaho Press.

Instructors must also remain neutral in these discussions and cannot conduct or engage in discussions in violation of state prohibitions “without risking prosecution,” according to the memo released by the Idaho Press.

While academic freedom allows classroom discussions on topics related to abortion, it does not protect against violations of state laws that prohibit promoting abortion, according to the Idaho Press memo.

Staff can also provide condoms for the purpose of helping prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, but not for the purposes of birth control, the Idaho Press reported, again citing a memo it says it obtained.

The university did not offer abortion services prior to the release of this new guidance and this was “not an activity expected of university employees” prior to the new guidance, but new laws now make it a crime to do so on university time or using university resources, according to the memo.

Any university employee wishing to counsel, promote or advocate in favor of abortion is required to do so outside of the performance of their job duties and without use of any university resources, the memo said.

“This is similar to the university’s policy on political activities which, while recognizing the rights of individuals to engage in political activities, requires that this be done on the employee’s personal time and without any use of university resources,” the memo said.

The University of Idaho did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment or verify that it sent out this memo to staff.

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