Idaho governor signs abortion ban into law
Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signed legislation on Wednesday modeled after a Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks, but he expressed concerns that part of its enforcement mechanism could become “unconstitutional and unwise.”
The bill was passed in the state legislature earlier this month and allows certain individuals to sue anyone who performs an abortion for someone when a fetal heartbeat is present.
Those who successfully sue could receive $20,000 and legal fees, but unlike the Texas law, only specific people — namely family members — can file a legal challenge.
“I stand in solidarity with all Idahoans who seek to protect the lives of preborn babies,” Little wrote in transmittal letter to state Senate President and Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (R).
But the Republican governor said he anticipated there would be some legal pushback to aspects of the law, including its civil enforcement component.
“While I support the pro-life policy in this legislation, I fear the novel civil enforcement mechanism will in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise. Deputizing private citizens to levy hefty monetary fines on the exercise of a disfavored but judicially recognized constitutional right for the purpose of evading court review undermines our constitutional form of government and weakens our collective liberties,” Little wrote.
Little voiced his concern that this same component could be used to target gun rights and religious freedoms.
The Idaho governor also said that he believed that the legislation could have “unintended consequences” for those who have been sexually assaulted.
“I appreciate the exception provided for victims of rape and incest, but the challenges and delays inherent in obtaining the requisite police report render the exception meaningless for many. I am particularly concerned for those vulnerable women and children who lack the capacity or familial support to report incest or sexual assault,” Little said.
“Ultimately, this legislation risks retraumatizing victims by affording monetary incentives to wrongdoers and family members of rapists.”
The legislation will become effective in 30 days — barring legal challenges — following Little’s signing, The Associated Press reported.
The Biden administration slammed the Texas-style ban in a statement on Wednesday.
“We knew that when Texas passed SB8, its extreme law that blatantly violates the constitutional right reaffirmed by Roe v. Wade, it would invite other states to follow. Today, Idaho became the first state to adopt a similar law – a six-week restriction relying on private citizens to enforce the law,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“This development is devastating for women in Idaho, as it will further impede women’s access to health care, especially those on low incomes and living in rural communities.”
Other advocates also voiced their opposition to the recently signed bill.
“The Supreme Court’s refusal to block Texas’ blatantly unconstitutional bounty-hunting scheme opened the door for anti-choice lawmakers in Idaho to adopt this cruel ban on abortion to enact in their own state,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement, who called it a “dystopian ban.”
Planned Parenthood’s Great Northwest division said that its clinics would stay open given that abortions could still be performed over the next 30 days.
“Idaho’s governor just signed a near-total abortion ban into law. We want to make things clear: Our clinics ARE and WILL REMAIN open. We will continue to provide critical health care services, educational resources, & advocacy campaigns in Idaho. This work is more vital than ever,” Planned Parenthood tweeted.
The decision comes as the Supreme Court is set to weigh on a Mississippi law later this year.