Idaho governor signs anti-abortion bill, despite calling it ‘unwise’

Atticus Chames, Staff Writer

Idaho Gov. Brad Little passed a law last month which prevents Idahoans from getting abortions after cardiac activity is detected in an embryo, even as he expressed concerns about the constitutionality of the measure. The law allows people who would have been family members – including relatives in the case of rape – to sue doctors for a minimum of $20,000 in damages.

“I stand in solidarity with all Idahoans who seek to protect the lives of preborn babies,” Little wrote in a letter to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. “While I support the pro-life policy in this legislation, I fear the novel civil enforcement mechanism will in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise.”

The Idaho law is the first in the nation to be modeled after the Texas statute, although there are a few key differences. Unlike the Texas law, exceptions are allowed in cases of rape or incest if a police report is filed and shown to a medical provider. 

The law was set to go into effect by April 22.

According to the anti-sexual assault organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), more than two-thirds of sexual assault crimes go unreported due to feared retaliation and a belief that the police won’t do anything to help. 

“The vigilante aspect of this bill is absurd,” said Idaho Democratic Rep. Lauren Necochea. “Its impacts are cruel, and it is blatantly unconstitutional.”

A lawsuit was filed in Idaho’s Supreme Court on behalf of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky and Dr. Caitlin Gustafson, a health care provider who performs abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics. 

“You or your loved one may be so early in pregnancy that you didn’t even know you were pregnant,” Gustafson said. “By passing SB 1309, Idaho lawmakers will be making your health care decisions for you. They intend to put the government in charge of your bodily autonomy.

“Now is the time to make our voices heard to maintain our right to make decisions about our own pregnancy,” she continued, “and to protect the patient-doctor relationship and access to standard medical care in Idaho.”