Idaho politician asks why Planned Parenthood hasn't been nuked; Title X restrictions upheld

click to enlarge Idaho state Republican Rep. Vito Barbieri
Idaho state Republican Rep. Vito Barbieri

An Idaho representative who once made headlines for asking if women could swallow cameras to get gynecological exams is now in the news for more violent comments related to women's reproductive care.

After emphasizing his belief that abortion is murder at a Hayden town hall on abortion issues this weekend, Kootenai County-based Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) said he doesn't know "why Planned Parenthood hasn't been nuked off State Street."

As the Idaho Statesman reported, Idaho has three Planned Parenthood clinics, all in the southern part of the state. The one in Boise is on State Street.

Below, you can watch Barbieri's full comments (rewind about a minute to hear his thoughts on why the Legislature won't hear bills that would totally ban abortion):

In addition to backlash against the comments from Planned Parenthood, the Idaho Statesman's editorial board condemned Barbieri's statements:

"There’s little doubt that legislators like Barbieri and Reps. Heather Scott, Bryan Zollinger and Christy Zito are passionate about the topic. You can certainly hear the passion and anger in Barbieri’s voice as he speaks about it at the town hall.
But nuking Planned Parenthood?

We see very little wiggle room in explaining away that choice of words.

This is dangerous territory bordering on inciting violence that needs to be condemned in the strongest possible way."     
Abortion providers around the country have been the victims of deadly violence (11 have been murdered in the U.S., with 26 other attempted murders since Roe v. Wade) and potentially deadly violence around the country. In 1996, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Spokane Valley was bombed. In 2015, the Planned Parenthood in Pullman was lit on fire in an arson that prevented the clinic from reopening for another six months.

"Planned Parenthood has long been a target of anti-abortion violence, and comments like these only further incite violence," said Mistie Tolman, Idaho state director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, in a statement over the weekend. "Anti-abortion violence is single-issue terrorism, and anti-abortion extremists are considered a domestic terrorist threat by the U.S. Department of Justice."

Tolman also notes that there is currently heightened partisanship and anti-abortion sentiment from the Trump Administration on down to local statehouses.

Barbieri did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.


Some family planning providers that received federal funding were dealt another blow yesterday when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Trump Administration changes to the Title X family planning program were legal. The changes include a so-called "gag rule" preventing providers who receive the low-income family planning funding — which covers things like birth control, STI testing and more — from referring their patients for an abortion.

Doctors say the restriction is unethical, as medical professionals have a duty to discuss all options with their patients. But the court's opinion states that doctors are not prevented from talking to patients about abortion, so long as they don't encourage them to get one, or refer them to get one elsewhere.

The American Medical Association still disagrees with the court's logic.

"This government overreach and interference demands that physicians violate their ethical obligations — prohibiting open, frank conversations with patients about all their health care options – if they want to continue treating patients under the Title X program," says Patrice A. Harris, President of the American Medical Association, in a statement. "It is unconscionable that the government is telling physicians that they can treat this underserved population only if they promise not to discuss or make referrals for all treatment options."

Incidentally, it was during an Idaho Legislature conversation about restricting doctors from remotely prescribing medication abortion pills that Barbieri asked a doctor if women could swallow camera pills for pregnancy exams. (He later defended his comments, saying the question was rhetorical to prove that some procedures that could be done remotely shouldn't be compared to the one being discussed.)