Idaho Governor Brad Little signed Senate Bill 1309 and Senate Bill 1358, bills allowing civil lawsuits to be filed against medical professionals who perform abortions after the detection of fetal heart activity.
The Idaho attorney general gave his opinion on the legislation to a senator in February, saying Senate Bill 1309 would ban nearly all abortions if passed. Senate Bill 1358 was added as a follow-up bill to revise provisions regarding attorney fees and other legal details. Both bills passed the House and Senate with non-veto majorities.
“(Senate Bill) 1309 would effectively ban nearly all abortions in the state of Idaho beginning at approximately six weeks of gestational age 30 days after enactment. If a court were to rule on a legal challenge on the merits of the abortion restriction, it would likely be found unconstitutional,” Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane said in the notice.
Little said in a cover letter that although he signed the bills into law, he is very concerned about the unintended consequences of the legislation.
“While I support the pro-life policy in this legislation, I fear the new civil enforcement mechanism will quickly be proven both unconstitutional and reckless. Delegating private citizens to levy large monetary fines for the exercise of a disadvantaged but judicially recognized constitutional right in an effort to evade judicial review undermines our constitutional form of government and weakens our collective freedoms,” said Little. “None of the rights we cherish are prohibited. How long before California, New York and other states hostile to the First and Second Amendments will use the same method to target our religious freedoms and our right to wear weapons?”
Little added that he is concerned about victims of sexual assault who may be affected by the legislation, saying he appreciates the exceptions for victims of rape and incest, other parts of the bill do. think.
“The challenges and delays inherent in obtaining the required police report make the exception meaningless for many. I am particularly concerned about vulnerable women and children who lack the capacity or family support to report incest and sexual assault,” Little wrote. “Ultimately, this legislation risks re-traumatizing victims by providing financial incentives to perpetrators and family members of rapists.”
Little said he remains committed to pro-life values, he strongly encourages the Idaho Legislature to “promptly rectify any unintended consequences of this legislation to ensure that the state sufficiently protects the interests of victims of sexual assault.”
Legislation awards no less than $20,000 to successful plaintiffs
The Idaho Family Policy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to “promoting biblically sound public policy,” lobbied for the legislation and introduced the bill to both sides of the Idaho legislature. . Blaine Conzatti, director of the center, told lawmakers there were plans to add a “private enforcement mechanism” to House Bill 366, a bill passed by the Idaho legislature in 2021 banning abortion procedures “when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.” This legislation contained a provision making it effective in Idaho if a United States Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a restriction or prohibition related to fetal heart activity.
“Today marks a historic day for the state of Idaho, which has now taken an unprecedented step in reversing five decades of bad politics,” Conzatti said in a statement Wednesday. “I promise we will continue to fight until every unborn child is valued and protected by the law, regardless of their stage of development.”
The Senate bill awards no less than $20,000 to the mother, father, grandparents, siblings, aunt or uncle of the fetus or embryo, as part of a successful trial.
The law is modeled after a similar effort in Texas and is the first successful attempt at the same type of legislation. In September, the United States Supreme Court did not grant an injunction that would have prevented the Texas law from taking effect, because the law relies on enforcement through private action rather than through of the government.
Conzatti told the Idaho Legislature that the Idaho law could take advantage of a legal loophole until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of a similar abortion law. in Mississippi that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. This Supreme Court decision is expected by the end of June.
The Texas law goes further than the Idaho version, allowing individuals to sue medical professionals who perform abortions or anyone else who might “aid and abet” abortions after six weeks. The award to winning plaintiffs in Texas is at least $10,000.
The Idaho law would include exceptions for medical emergencies and for women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest – as long as there are documents, such as a police report. Texas law does not include these exceptions. Idaho law would allow a lawsuit to be brought against a medical professional up to four years after the abortion.
Neighboring states pass competing laws to protect providers
Legal Voice, a women’s rights organization, said in a statement that many Idahoans wrote to Little asking him to veto the legislation.
“In addition to essentially banning all abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy — before most people even realize they’re pregnant — SB1309 would also allow medical professionals to be sued for a minimum of $20,000. ‘they provide, or are believed to provide, safe abortion procedures,’ the statement read. “This legislation encourages families to watch over their pregnant loved ones as vigilantes in order to obtain financial reward by bringing such lawsuits. This bill also gives perpetrators of domestic violence, rape and incest an additional mechanism of control through reproductive coercion.
The statement adds that abortion at any stage remains legal in Idaho for the next 30 days and then until six weeks of pregnancy.
“If you are in need of an abortion and need financial support, we encourage people to contact the North West Abortion Access Fund,” the statement read. “We will continue to fight for the autonomy and safety of all who have been or may become pregnant in Idaho, as well as those who have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence.”
The governors of Oregon and Washington have spoken out against the Idaho bill.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed a bill last week banning Texas-style penalties for health care providers who perform abortions.
“To the citizens of Idaho, if Idaho does not defend your constitutional rights, we will,” inslee said.
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