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Idaho lawmakers move closer to passing a Texas-style abortion bill

Abortion rights advocates at the U.S. Supreme Court
Jose Luis Magana
Abortion rights advocates holding cardboard cutouts of the Supreme Court Justices, demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Dec. 1, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

An Idaho Senate committee Wednesday approved a bill to implement a Texas-style abortion ban after about six weeks of pregnancy.

If signed into law, the proposal would ban all abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which is before many women know they’re pregnant. It would only take effect if a federal appeals court found a similar law to be constitutional.

“When we hear that heartbeat, we know that what we’re hearing is a sign of life,” said Blaine Conzatti, president of the Idaho Family Policy Center.

Like a controversial and unsettled Texas law, an abortion provider performing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is apparent could be sued under the bill.

Texas’s law faces active court challenges, though the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed it to remain in effect for now.

Justices are also consideringa case from Mississippi that questions whether all pre-viability limits on abortions are unconstitutional, which could change or eliminate precedents set by Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Under Idaho’s bill, those related to the fetus, including the father, grandparents, siblings, aunts, or uncles, would have the standing to file a lawsuit. If successful in court, a doctor would owe family members no less than $20,000.

Unlike Texas’s law, anyone aiding a woman receiving an abortion in Idaho, like an Uber driver, would not be at risk of a lawsuit.

The father of a fetus conceived through rape or incest would not be able to sue.

But Tai Simpson, director of social change for the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said there aren’t similar protections in abusive relationships.

“This bill makes room for family members outside of that abusive relationship to further traumatize and victimize the woman enduring the abuse,” Simpson said.

Other critics called into question its constitutionality, calling it puritanical and that its passage would not stop abortions.

“Those with the financial means will be forced to flee the state for essential healthcare while those without the means will be forced to carry out an unwanted pregnancy against their will or seek unsafe options,” said Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln from Legal Voice, an abortion-rights organization.

Supporters, meanwhile, said they wish the proposal completely banned abortions, but felt it would be a step in the right direction.

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued an advisory opinion, finding several provisions of the bill would likely be unconstitutional.

That includes treating abortion providers differently from other medical professionals and preventing the executive branch from enforcing the laws of Idaho and giving those powers to citizens.

Conzatti said there will also be an accompanying bill introduced later that will let defendants in such a lawsuit recoup attorneys fees if they win. Currently, the proposal blocks them from doing so, even if a lawsuit is found to be frivolous.

It now needs approval from the full Senate before it could go to the House for consideration.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!