Idaho became the first state to enact a law modeled after a Texas statute banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and allowing it to be enforced through lawsuits to avoid constitutional court challenges. The law allows the father, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles of a “preborn child” to each sue an abortion provider for a minimum of $20,000 in damages within four years after the abortion. Rapists can’t file a lawsuit under the law, but a rapist’s relatives could.
Republican Gov. Brad Little signed the measure on Wednesday that allows those people who “would have been family members” to sue a doctor who performs an abortion after any cardiac activity is detected in an embryo. But even as he signed it, Little said he had “concerns” about whether the law was constitutional. “I stand in solidarity with all Idahoans who seek to protect the lives of preborn babies,” Little wrote in a letter to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is also president of the Idaho Senate. “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.”
Thanks to advanced technology, doctors can now detect the first signs of electric activity within cells in an embryo as early as six weeks. This flutter isn’t a beating heart; it’s just a sign of cardiac activity that would eventually become a heart if the embryo continues to develop. An embryo is termed a fetus only after the eighth week of pregnancy, and the actual heart begins to form between the ninth and 12th weeks of pregnancy. Even then, the fetus would not survive outside of the mother’s womb and would not be considered viable, which is why most abortions are performed by or before the 12th week of gestation. Republican Rep. Steven Harris, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement after the vote on March 14th: “This bill makes sure that the people of Idaho can stand up for our values and do everything in our power to prevent the wanton destruction of innocent human life.”
NEW: White House press sec. Jen Psaki on Idaho law banning abortion after 6 weeks: "The President again calls on Congress to act and send a bill to his desk to shut down these radical steps." https://t.co/agoWz6pmDw pic.twitter.com/4uFkJic8Ww
— ABC News (@ABC) March 23, 2022
Abortion clinics in neighboring states such as Oregon and Washington which have no such restrictions, are expecting a deluge of patients from Idaho in the wake of the new restrictions. Some are even offering special protections for pregnant people fearful of being reported. A Planned Parenthood official called the law “unconstitutional” and said Planned Parenthood was “committed to going to every length and exploring all our options to restore Idahoans’ right to abortion.”
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 GNHAIK (@PPGNHAIK) March 23, 2022
“I want to emphasize to everyone in Idaho that our doors remain open. We remain committed to helping our patients access the health care they need, including abortion,” said Rebecca Gibron of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, and Kentucky, which operates Idaho’s three abortion clinics.