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Idaho Senate advances abortion ban

If enacted, it would make state first to copy Texas’ civil-action prohibition by CAROLINE KITCHENER THE WASHINGTON POST | March 4, 2022 at 4:07 a.m.

The Idaho Senate on Thursday approved a Republican bill to ban abortion after six weeks, positioning Idaho to become the first state to copy the restrictive Texas law that has prohibited most abortions in the state.

The vote was 28 to 6.

As the Supreme Court considers whether to overturn or significantly weaken Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion, Republican lawmakers in at least 11 states have introduced bills modeled after the Texas ban, which empowers private citizens to enforce the law through civil litigation.

If it passes the Republican-led House and is signed by Gov. Brad Little (R), Idaho's abortion ban could take effect as early as April, several months before the Supreme Court is expected to rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the case that will determine the constitutionality of Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban and determine the future of Roe.

"Let's take advantage of this opportunity to halt the slaughter of the unborn in Idaho," said Idaho state Sen. C. Scott Grow (R). "No matter the outcome of the Mississippi challenge, between now and the time of that Supreme Court decision, this Idaho bill will potentially deter the abortion of hundreds."

Ahead of the vote, several Democratic lawmakers argued against the bill, criticizing it for undermining abortion rights and questioning whether it would survive a legal challenge.

"We are at a crisis point in our history when it comes to this issue," said Sen. Melissa Wintrow (D), who said she has received close to 500 emails from constituents who oppose this bill. "This feels like a very aggressive attempt to continue to shatter the rights we have nationwide."

Abortion rights advocates in Idaho have expressed concerns since the six-week ban was introduced, warning that Idaho could soon become the second state to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

"In our minds, we're all thinking about June, but this is happening now and it's happening quick," said Emily Halvorson, press officer for state media campaigns at Planned Parenthood. "Even before Roe is overturned, people's access to abortion in Idaho could be decimated."

In crafting their own version of the Texas law, Idaho lawmakers narrowed the list of people who can sue and be sued. Unlike Senate Bill 8 in Texas, which allows any private citizen to file a lawsuit, the Idaho law can be enforced only by the abortion patient or their family members, including the father of the fetus, the patient's children, parents, and siblings.

While Texas S.B. 8 empowers private citizens to sue anyone who helps facilitate an abortion, from counselors to clinic receptionists to Uber drivers, Idaho's bill would only allow for lawsuits against abortion providers.

Abortion rights groups plan to challenge the Idaho bill if it's signed into law, said Lisa Humes-Schulz, Vice President of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, who advocates for Planned Parenthood in Idaho. While the Texas abortion ban was heard by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, widely known as the most conservative circuit court in the country, the Idaho ban would go up through the 9th Circuit, where justices might be more open to arguments from abortion rights groups, said Humes-Schulz.

Still, she added, "we're not taking anything for granted."

"We're certainly preparing for this to take effect."

Print Headline: Idaho Senate advances abortion ban

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