University Staff Warned They Could Be Fired for Providing Birth Control

A memo also warned faculty they must “remain neutral” in speaking about abortion at all.
idaho birth control abortion
University of Idaho Administration Building. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Employees at the University of Idaho are being warned that they could be fired if they refer students for abortions or even offer them birth control, according to a new memo issued in the wake of Idaho’s new near-total abortion ban. 

They’re also being warned to “remain neutral” in speaking about abortion at all. “Academic freedom is not a defense to violation of law,” the memo reads.

The memo, issued Friday and obtained by Idaho Press, was drafted by the University of Idaho’s Office of General Counsel and includes a laundry list of recommendations for university employees meant to keep them safe from the Idaho’s anti-abortion statutes. The state’s near-total ban, which took effect in late August, outlaws abortions except in cases where a pregnant person’s life is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest (as long as it was reported to law enforcement). 


People who violate Idaho’s anti-abortion laws could be found guilty of a felony. They could also be fired and blocked from any future employment with the state, according to the memo.

“In this new and evolving legal landscape, how these laws will be enforced remains unclear,” the memo reads. “Accordingly, the university and its employees should be aware of the potential risks and penalties associated with conduct that may be perceived to violate the laws.”

Under the memo, university employees also cannot “counsel in favor of abortion,” form contracts with abortion providers, or dispense emergency contraception like Plan B.

Because Idaho law also now forbids people from helping the “prevention of conception,” a decidedly vague term, the University of Idaho is interpreting it to also refer to birth control. 

“Since violation is considered a felony, we are advising a conservative approach here, that the university not provide standard birth control itself,” the memo reads.

The memo does specify that health care workers at student health locations can still offer “counseling on birth control, as well as providing the means for birth control.” University employees may also still “provide condoms for the purpose of helping prevent the spread of STDs and not for purposes of birth control.”

The memo also advises employees to be careful in classroom discussions. If employees are thought to be promoting abortion in those discussions, they could find themselves in legal trouble.

“Faculty or others in charge of classroom topics and discussion must themselves remain neutral on the topic and cannot conduct or engage in discussions in violation of these prohibitions without risking prosecution,” the memo reads.