University of Idaho file photo

The University of Idaho’s administration building in Moscow.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement Tuesday calling Idaho’s abortion laws “extreme and backwards” in response to a memo issued by the University of Idaho cautioning employees not to provide reproductive health counseling to students, including abortion, or risk losing their jobs or face criminal prosecution.

“To be clear, nothing under Idaho law justifies the university’s decision to deny students access to contraception. But the situation in Idaho speaks to the unacceptable consequences of extreme abortion bans,” Jean-Pierre said in the statement. “The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in the right to birth control, as well as the right to abortion, without government interference.”

The university’s general counsel sent the memo to all employees on Friday, advising that Idaho law prohibits university employees from promoting, counseling or referring someone for an abortion, and prohibits the institution from dispensing drugs classified as emergency contraception except in cases of rape. The memo was intended to help UI staff understand the complexity of a law passed in the 2021 session of the Idaho Legislature dubbed the No Public Funds for Abortion Act. The University of Idaho and other public schools across Idaho are subject to the law since they are state-funded institutions.

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