There was quite a bit of controversy last year when Texas enacted a pro-life law that prohibited most abortions and allowed for civil suits against abortion providers to enforce that prohibition on behalf of the state.
Idaho’s Republican-led state legislature has now followed suit and passed a similar bill allowing certain individuals to sue abortion providers, the Washington Examiner reported.
The measure was actually an amendment to a pro-life law passed last year that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy, and it passed overwhelmingly in the Idaho House by a margin of 51-14 after having been approved by the state Senate earlier in the month.
Civil liability for abortion providers
If signed into law, the bill would open up to civil liability abortion providers who “knowingly or recklessly” attempt or perform a prohibited abortion after a heartbeat is detected in a “preborn” baby.
Such suits could be filed by the aborted baby’s mother, father, grandparents, siblings, or aunts and uncles up to four years after the banned act had occurred. A successful suit against an abortion provider would result in liability for damages of at least $20,000 plus attorneys fees and court costs, but defendants would be barred from being awarded attorneys fees and court costs if a suit was unsuccessful.
As noted, the civil suit provisions were added as amendments to an existing law passed last year criminally banning most abortions — with exceptions for incest, rape, and danger to the mother’s life — after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Abortion providers convicted of violating that ban could face two to five years in prison plus the suspension or revocation of their applicable professional licenses.
That prohibition hasn’t actually gone into effect yet, however, as it includes a trigger clause that is wholly reliant upon any federal appeals court anywhere in the nation ruling to uphold a similar fetal heartbeat law in another state.
The Associated Press reported that Republican supporters of the bill insist it will help save preborn lives if signed into law while Democratic opponents decried the measure as unconstitutional and a threat to women’s health and reproductive rights.
Thus far, Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) hasn’t publicly commented on the bill so it is unclear if he will sign it into law or not. That said, he had no problem signing the fetal heartbeat bill into law last year and has previously expressed publicly his pro-life views.
According to the Idaho Capital Sun, Gov. Little will have five days to act once the bill reaches his desk, and he could choose to sign it or simply allow it to become law without his signature after those five days.
He could also veto the measure and send it back to the state legislature, but the legislature, in turn, could override that veto with a two-thirds majority in each chamber, and given the wide margins by which the bill was passed — 51-14 in the House, 28-6 in the Senate — that shouldn’t prove too difficult.