The Idaho Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a state law banning six-week abortions, the first law in the United States to mirror a similar Texas measure that relies on civil enforcement through lawsuits against providers.
The April 9 ruling — which stems from a legal challenge by Planned Parenthood — means the law will not go into effect on April 22 as scheduled, as both sides file briefs setting out their case before the judges to make a final decision.
“Patients across Idaho can breathe a sigh of relief tonight,” said Rebecca Gibron, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana and Kentucky.
“We’re thrilled that abortion will continue to be available in the state for now, but our fight to ensure Idahoans have full access to their constitutionally protected rights is far from over,” she said in a statement.
The group sued the state after Republican Gov. Brad Little signed Senate Bill 1309 that would allow family members of what the legislation calls a “premature child” to pursue legal action with a reward of at least $20,000 plus attorneys’ fees initiate lawsuits against providers, which can be filed up to four years after an abortion.
Unlike the Texas bill, the Idaho measure includes an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest — but only if the woman files a police report and shows it to a doctor.
If she fails to do so before an abortion, a rapist’s family members could hypothetically sue and collect damages, according to the wording of the bill and the arguments of its legislative sponsor.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that more than two-thirds of victims do not report their assaults, in part for fear of retribution.
Abortion rights advocates warned that such enforcement measures effectively allow people to benefit from “bounties” targeted at women seeking medical care.
Despite signing the bill into law, the governor said he was concerned about the provision, arguing that “representing individuals by levying large fines for exercising an aggrieved but court-recognized constitutional right for the purpose of circumventing judicial review undermines our constitutional form of government.” and weakens our collective freedoms.”
The Idaho attorney general’s office, arguing on behalf of the state, wants the case to be heard by a district judge first before it can be considered by the state’s Supreme Court, a process that could take months.
The Idaho Legislature joins a wave of anti-abortion action by U.S. Republican lawmakers, emboldened by the expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case that could determine the fate of women’s health protections if the decades-old precedent is broken from the ruling in Roe v Wade is overturned.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, meanwhile, has signed a similar six-week abortion ban and is poised to sign another measure that would effectively make all abortions illegal in the state.