It was last summer when five Republican-appointed U.S. Supreme Court justices gave the green light to Texas’ abortion ban, effectively ending Roe v. Wade protections in the nation’s second largest state. In a dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts warned at the time that the state law could serve as “a model for action in other areas.”
The prediction proved prescient.
Republican state legislators recently approved a measure to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, and as The New York Times reported, Idaho’s Republican governor signed into law yesterday — though not without voicing some concerns.
Gov. Brad Little of Idaho signed a strict new abortion bill into law on Wednesday, even as he expressed grave concerns about the wisdom and constitutionality of the measure and warned that it could retraumatize victims of sexual assault. Modeled after a new law in Texas, the Idaho legislation bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy — before many women are aware they are pregnant.
“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. He added that he feared Democrats in blue states could use similar tactics to impose restrictions conservatives wouldn’t like.
But the Idaho Republican proceeded to sign it into law anyway. The new ban will go into effect in 30 days.
In case anyone needs a refresher, what made Texas’ system so unusual was the extent to which Republican policymakers effectively created a vigilante system: If some random person learns that a Texan had an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women even know they’re pregnant — he could file suit against the physician who performed the procedure. And the nurse who was in the room. And the friend who drove the woman to the health clinic. And the family member who gave the woman some money to help pay for the trip.
According to the Lone Star State’s abortion ban, a random person, effectively deputized by Texas Republicans, could sue any of these people for $10,000 — plus attorneys’ fees — turning anti-abortion activists into bounty hunters.
Idaho’s measure is similar — it’s built on the vigilante system chassis — but not identical. NBC News’ recent report explained, “[I]t would allow the potential father, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of a ‘preborn child’ to sue an abortion provider for a minimum of $20,000 in damages within four years of an abortion.”
Under this approach, bounty hunters could not, however, sue someone who drove a woman to the clinic to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
What’s more, Idaho’s abortion ban makes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, while Texas’ law does not. (Idaho women would be required to file a police report as proof that her pregnancy was the result of a rape.)
In the meantime, those involved in the debate over reproductive rights are awaiting word from the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule in the coming months on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. Assuming the Republican-appointed justices side with the state, the floodgates are expected to open immediately thereafter.
A Washington Post report added, “Republican lawmakers in at least 12 states have introduced bills modeled after the Texas ban.”