Activist state

Idaho is the first state to adopt an abortion ban based on Texas law.

Idaho on Monday became the first state to pass a copy of an unusual new law from Texas that relies on ordinary citizens to enforce a ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to sidestep legal challenges. of its constitutionality.

The Republican-led Idaho House approved the bill, 51-14, and sent it to Gov. Brad Little. Mr Little, a Republican, has already signed a separate law restricting abortion which was passed last year.

The law project was the latest show of confidence from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers across the country. Both sides of the abortion debate predict that by the summer the Supreme Court could reduce or overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Under Roe, states cannot ban abortion until a fetus is viable outside the womb, which with modern medical technology is about 23 weeks into the pregnancy. But the court’s six conservative justices seemed willing to abandon that decision when they heard oral arguments in December over a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks.

The court also declined to intervene to stop the Texas law, which went into effect in September. On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court said it was unable to stop the ban because the law explicitly prohibits the state officials being sued from enforcing it.

On Monday, the Idaho bill’s sponsors said they were encouraged by the rulings.

“Texas’ smart, private action plan has done some good,” said Rep. Steven Harris, the bill’s co-sponsor at Idaho House. “It stopped physical abortions, chemical abortions in their tracks.”

To those who objected that the bill was unconstitutional, Harris noted that “Texas has already made two visits to the Supreme Court.” And, he added, “abortions are still stopped in Texas.”

The Idaho bill differs from the Texas law in some key respects.

Texas allows any civilian to sue anyone, whether it’s a rideshare driver or a doctor, who ‘aids or encourages’ a woman to have an abortion after detecting heart activity fetus, usually around six weeks – before many women realize they are pregnant. It provides $10,000 plus legal fees for successful lawsuits. Idaho’s bill, similarly titled a “heartbeat bill,” allows family members of what the law calls “an unborn child” to sue the provider of abortion, and establishes a reward of at least $20,000, plus legal costs. It allows lawsuits against providers up to four years after an abortion.

Texas law, considered the strictest in the country, allows no exceptions for female victims of rape or incest. The Idaho bill provides an exception but requires women to file a police report and show it to the provider before they can have an abortion. Neither state would prosecute women who have abortions.

Last year, shortly before Texas passed its law, Idaho passed a law making it a crime to perform an abortion after detecting fetal heart activity. But acknowledging that the law was likely unconstitutional, lawmakers added a trigger, saying it would only take effect when an appeals court upheld similar law in another state.

Idaho’s attorney general, a Republican, warned in an advisory this month that the new bill with civil enforcement would also be “likely to violate recognized constitutional rights.” He said it could also violate the separation of powers outlined in the Idaho Constitution.

The governor opposes abortion and signed the trigger law passed last year. If he signs the new bill allowing civil enforcement, it will come into effect 30 days later.

The bill identifies those who can sue as the mother, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of the “unborn child”, as well as the father. It does not allow rapists to sue after an abortion has been performed.

Rep. Lauren Necochea, a Democrat who opposed the bill, asked ahead of Monday’s vote whether a rapist’s siblings could sue the abortion provider.

Mr. Harris, the co-sponsor, indicated that they could.

Ms Necochea said the exceptions for rape and incest were “not meaningful”.

“This bill is not smart, it is nonsense,” she said.

Data shows abortions in Texas have dropped 60% since its law took effect in September. Some clinics in neighboring states have seen an 800% increase in demand for abortions as women cross state lines for the procedure. One of those states, Oklahoma, is considering its own six-week ban.

“It’s appalling that anyone can look at the chaos and damage in Texas over the past six months and think, ‘I want this for the people of my state,'” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Planned Parenthood said it would pressure the governor not to sign the bill.