The Idaho Supreme Court on Friday temporarily blocked a new state law that would ban abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and allow the law to be enforced through lawsuits.
Idaho last month became the first state to enact a law modeled on Texas law that bans abortions after about six weeks. The Idaho High Court’s ruling in a Planned Parenthood lawsuit means the new law will not go into effect on April 22 as planned.
The state Supreme Court ordered both sides to file additional briefs while it reviews the case before making its final decision.
Republican Gov. Brad Little last month signed legislation that would have allowed people who would have been family members to sue doctors who perform abortions after embryos are found to have heart activity. But when he signed it, Little said he had concerns about whether the law was constitutional.
The law would allow the father, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of a “premature child” to each sue an abortion provider for damages of at least $20,000 within four years of the abortion. Rapists cannot file a lawsuit under the law, but a rapist’s relatives can.
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana and Kentucky had called the law unconstitutional.
“We’re thrilled that abortion will remain available in the state for the time being, but our fight to ensure Idahoans have full access to their constitutionally protected rights is far from over,” said Rebecca Gibron, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest , Hawaii, Alaska. Indiana and Kentucky said in a statement after Friday’s court hearing.
The decision comes amid a nationwide struggle for access to abortion. The conservative majority of the US Supreme Court in a case in Mississippi signaled a willingness to accept Roe v. Wade to seriously undermine or even strike down the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide until a baby can survive outside the womb. Numerous Republican-majority states are prepared to follow the strictest interpretation of the ruling.
If Roe is overthrown, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion soon, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that advocates for abortion rights.
The Idaho law was modeled on a Texas law that the US Supreme Court has allowed to remain in effect pending a court challenge to its case. Texas law allows people to enforce the law in place of state officials who normally would. Texas law permits lawsuits against clinics, doctors, and anyone who “assists or encourages” illegal abortion.
Supporters had said the law was Idaho’s best opportunity to severely restrict abortion in the state after years of attempts.
When he signed the law into law, the Idaho governor expressed his concerns about the legislation.
“Delegating individuals to levy large fines for exercising an aggrieved but court-recognized constitutional right to evade judicial review undermines our constitutional form of government and weakens our collective liberties,” Little wrote.
He said he’s concerned some states may take the same approach to restricting gun rights.
The attorney general’s office, which represents the state, had said the case should begin in the state’s district courts and work its way up to the Supreme Court.
Planned Parenthood’s attorneys objected.
“In the obvious view of the State, the more unconstitutional the law, the less conducive to exceptional legal protection. This turns things on their head: The state should not be able to escape the review of this court by violating multiple provisions of the Idaho Constitution, rather than just one.”