July 13, 2024


The Legal System

Idaho & Abortion: Governor Signs Law Modeled on Texas Bill


Governor Brad Little speaks in Washington, December 16, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Idaho governor Brad Little, a Republican, signed a law on Wednesday modeled on Texas’s ban on abortions at detection of a fetal heartbeat.

The Idaho law allows family members of a “preborn child,” including the father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings, to sue an abortion provider for a minimum of $20,000 if they perform an abortion when the fetal heartbeat is discernible. A heartbeat is typically detectable at around six weeks of pregnancy.

“I stand in solidarity with all Idahoans who seek to protect the lives of preborn babies,” Little wrote in a letter to Idaho Senate president and lieutenant governor Janice McGeachin after signing the legislation.

However, Little also noted that he had concerns with law, writing “I fear the novel civil enforcement mechanism will in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise.”

The law provides for exemptions in cases of incest or rape, however the law also requires a victim seeking an abortion to file a police report beforehand. An abortion is also permitted under the law in case of a medical emergency in which the pregnant woman’s life is threatened.

“I am particularly concerned for those vulnerable women and children who lack the capacity or familial support to report incest and sexual assault,” Little wrote. “Ultimately, this legislation risks re-traumatizing victims by affording monetary [incentives] to wrongdoers and family members of rapists.”

The law was widely backed by Idaho Republicans, who hold supermajorities in the state legislature. The state House passed the law 51-14 last week, with the Senate approving the bill 28-6 earlier in March.

There are four abortion providers in Idaho, all of them in the southern part of the state, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The Texas law banning abortions at detection of a fetal heartbeat, on which Idaho’s legislation is based, went into effect in September 2021 after the Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge against it.

Texas’s bill allows any private citizen to sue an abortion provider, or anyone who aids in obtaining an abortion, for $10,000. The Idaho law is slightly narrower, allowing only family members to sue, with the target of the suit limited to an abortion provider.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is also a violist, and has served in the Israeli Defense Forces.


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