Idaho Supreme Court halts state law banning abortion at six weeks

Families of ‘preborn child’ could sue abortion providers even in the event of rape or incest under state law, opponents warn

Marjorie Taylor Greene calls for ‘murder investigation’ of five aborted fetuses

Idaho’s Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a state law banning abortions at six weeks of pregnancy, the first law in the US to mirror a similar Texas measure relying on civilian enforcement through lawsuits aimed at providers.

The ruling on 9 April – stemming from a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood – means the law will not go into effect as planned on 22 April as both sides file briefs stating their case before judges reach 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 are thrilled that abortion will remain accessible in the state for now, but our fight to ensure that Idahoans can fully access their constitutionally protected rights is far from over,” she said in a statement.

The group sued the state after Republican Governor Brad Little signed Senate Bill 1309 into law, which allowed family members of what the legislation calls “a preborn child” to pursue legal action against providers, with a reward of at least $20,000 plus legal fees, in lawsuits that can be filed up to four years after an abortion.

Unlike the Texas bill, the Idaho measure does include an exception for pregnancies as the result of rape or incest – but only if the woman files a police report and provides it to a physician.

If she fails to do so before an abortion, a rapist’s family members could hypothetically sue and collect damages, according to language in the bill and arguments from its legislative sponsor.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that more than two-thirds of victims do not report their assaults over fear of retaliation, among other concerns.

Abortion rights advocates warned that such enforcement measures effectively allow people to profit from “bounties” targeting women seeking medical care.

Despite signing the law, the governor also said he was concerned about the provision, arguing that “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.”

The office of Idaho’s attorney general, arguing on behalf of the state, wants the case to first be handled by a district court judge before it can be considered by the state’s Supreme Court, a process that could take months.

Idaho’s legislation joins a wave of anti-abortion measures from Republican state lawmakers across the US, emboldened by the US Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling in a case that could determine the fate of healthcare protections for women if the decades-old precedent from the ruling in Roe v Wade is overturned.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, meanwhile, has signed a similar six-week abortion ban into law, and is poised to sign another measure effectively making all abortions in the state illegal.

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