The Idaho Supreme Court has temporarily blocked implementation of a new abortion law in the state that has an enforcement mechanism modeled on an abortion ban in Texas, enabling the law to be enforced through private citizens filing lawsuits against abortion providers.
The abortion ban was signed into law on March 23, making Idaho the first state to enact legislation modeled after Texas’s ban.
The measure bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy. It was scheduled to go into effect on April 22 before the latest order (pdf) from the state’s high court granted a stay in response to a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood.
Per the order the ban will be blocked temporarily, pending a final decision. The court has ordered both sides to file further briefs as it considers the case.
Republican Gov. Brad Little had expressed concerns about whether the law, known as S.B. 1309, was constitutional when he signed the legislation.
It would allow certain family members—the father, the grandparent, a sibling, or an aunt or uncle of the unborn child—to bring a civil lawsuit against the abortion provider for a minimum of $20,000 in damages, within four years after the alleged abortion. Rapists can’t file a lawsuit under the law, but a rapist’s relatives could.
“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,” Little wrote in a letter on March 23 (pdf).
“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. None of the rights we treasure are off limits,” he added. “How long before California, New York, and other states hostile to the First and Second Amendments use the same methods to target our religious freedoms and right to bear arms?”
Planned Parenthood said in its petition (pdf) on March 29 that the legislation’s “enforcement mechanism and substance are blatantly unconstitutional, so much so that Idaho’s Attorney General’s Office released an opinion to this effect, and the Governor emphasized similar concerns upon signing.”
“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,” Rebecca Gibron, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana and Kentucky, said in a statement after Friday’s court action.
Little’s press secretary told the Idaho Capital Sun it does not comment on pending litigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.