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Gov. Brad Little signs Texas-style abortion ban into law

Side profile of Gov. Brad Little standing with a black suit jacket. The background is blurred.
AP Images

State lawmakers are following Texas’s lead by allowing private citizens to sue doctors who perform abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy before many women know they’re pregnant.

Last week, Idaho became the first to pass similar legislation.

Gov. Brad Little signed the bill into law Wednesday.

“I stand in solidarity with all Idahoans who seek to protect the lives of preborn babies,” Little wrote in a letter explaining his decision.

However, he said he fears the civil enforcement mechanism in the bill will be proven “unconstitutional and unwise” “in short order.”

“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.

Should that strategy stand, he said he worries “California, New York and other states hostile to the First and Second Amendments” will use the same methods to target religious freedoms and the right to bear arms.

Idaho’s law differs slightly from the Texas statute, which allows anyone – regardless of whether they live in Texas or not – to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an illegal abortion, like an Uber driver.

In Idaho, only family members of an aborted fetus could sue the doctor who performed the procedure after a fetal heartbeat could be detected.

That includes the family of someone who rapes a woman and impregnates her.

The law does allow abortions for women who have been raped or who become pregnant due to incest, though they must prove those circumstances before the procedure can be performed.

Police reports authenticating these allegations aren’t immediately available, which Little points to rendering the exceptions “meaningless for many”

“Ultimately, this legislation risks retraumatizing victims by affording monetary [incentives] to wrongdoers and family members of rapists,” he wrote.

Additional criminal penalties against doctors who perform abortions after about six weeks would take effect following a federal appeals court decision finding a similar law from another state to be constitutional.

The term “heartbeat” is contested by medical professionals who testified against the bill this month.Valves in the heart must open and close to pump blood throughout the body to be considered a heartbeat, they said.

What can be detected via a transvaginal ultrasound at about six weeks of pregnancy,when a fetus is the size of a bean, is “cardiac activity,” they said.

“This bill is blatantly unconstitutional, and we are committed to going to every length and exploring all our options to restore Idahoans’ right to abortion,” said Rebecca Gibron, interim CEO of Planned Great Northwest, Hawaiʻi, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, which operates Idaho’s three abortion clinics.

Depending on the U.S. Supreme Court’s actions in a case out of Mississippi later this summer, Idaho could ban most abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the health of the mother.

It already has a trigger law to do so, which passed in 2020.

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.

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