BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho on Wednesday became the first state to enact legislation modeled after a Texas law banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy and allowing its enforcement through lawsuits to prevent disputes before the Constitutional Court.
Republican Gov. Brad Little signed into law the measure that allows people who would have been family members to sue a doctor who performs an abortion after heart activity is detected in an embryo. Still, he said he had concerns about whether the law was constitutional.
“I stand in solidarity with all Idahoans seeking to protect the lives of unborn babies,” Little wrote in a letter to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is also Senate Speaker.
Yet he also noted, “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.”
The law in the conservative state is expected to take effect 30 days after signing, but legal challenges are expected. Opponents call it unconstitutional and note that six weeks is before many women know they are pregnant.
State-of-the-art technology can detect the first flutter of electrical activity in the cells of an embryo as early as six weeks. This wavering is not a beating heart; it is heart activity that will eventually become a heart. An embryo is called a fetus after the eighth week of pregnancy, and the heart proper begins to form between the ninth and twelfth week of pregnancy.
The law allows the father, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of an “unborn child” to each sue an abortion provider for a minimum of $20,000 in damages in the four years following the abortion. Rapists cannot sue under the law, but relatives of a rapist can.
“The vigilant aspect of this bill is absurd,” said Idaho Democratic Rep. Lauren Necochea. “Its impacts are cruel and it is patently unconstitutional.”
A Planned Parenthood official called the law unconstitutional and said the group was “committed to doing everything and exploring all of our options to restore Idahoans’ right to abortion.”
“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 the three clinics in Idaho abortion.
Supporters said the law was Idaho’s best opportunity to severely restrict abortions in the state after years of trying. More recently, last year, the state passed a law banning six-week abortions, but it took a favorable federal court ruling in a similar case to take effect, and it didn’t happen.
The law is modeled after a Texas law that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to remain in place until a legal challenge is decided on the merits. Texas law allows people to enforce the law in place of state officials who normally would. Texas law allows lawsuits against clinics, doctors and anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion that is not permitted by law.
A number of other states are pursuing similar laws, including Tennessee, which introduced a Texas-style abortion bill last week.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration knew the Texas law would lead other states to pass similar laws, and called on Congress to send the president a bill to “stop these drastic measures”.
“This development is devastating for women in Idaho because it will further impede women’s access to health care, especially those with low incomes and living in rural communities,” Psaki said in a statement Wednesday.
Idaho Republicans have super majorities in both the House and the Senate. The measure passed the Senate 28-6 and the House 51-14 without any Democratic support. Three House Republicans voted against the measure.
Little Wednesday raised concerns about the legislation.
“Delegating private citizens to impose heavy fines for exercising a disadvantaged but judicially recognized constitutional right in order to evade judicial review undermines our constitutional form of government and weakens our collective freedoms,” a- he writes.
He said he was concerned that some states would use the same approach to limit gun rights.
He also expressed concern about the part of the law allowing relatives of a rapist to sue.
“Ultimately, this legislation risks re-traumatizing victims by providing financial incentives to perpetrators and family members of rapists,” he wrote.
He concluded the letter by encouraging lawmakers to address these issues to avoid unintended consequences “to ensure that the state sufficiently protects the interests of victims of sexual assault.”
Little faces a major far-right challenge to McGeachin, the lieutenant governor, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Republican Rep. Steven Harris, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement after the March 14 vote, “This bill ensures that Idahoans can uphold our values and do all that we can. to prevent the wanton destruction of innocent people. human life.” ___
This story has been corrected to show that the Tennessee abortion bill was introduced last week, not this week.
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