Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a bill that bans abortion at six weeks and allows biological relatives of aborted children to sue for damages.
Senate Bill 1309, also know as the “Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act,” amends a preexisting state law.
It was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 11 and passed on March 3 following a 28-6 vote. The Idaho house referred the bill to its Committee for State Affairs, which recommended the policy for passage on March 10. On March 14, the bill passed in the House by a 51-14 vote.
S.B. 1309 prohibits abortion after six weeks and would allow any biological relative of a preborn child to file lawsuits against “medical professionals who knowingly or recklessly attempted, performed, or induced abortion” in violation of the law. Penalties can start at $20,000 per violation.
The law defines a biological relative as the father, grandparent, sibling, or an aunt or uncle of the preborn child, “ as well as a “female upon whom an abortion has been attempted or performed.”
Shaakirrah Sanders, a law professor at the University of Idaho, told NPR the potential lawsuits could cause serious financial damage to abortion providers.
“If there are 10 siblings and parents, all of those people can sue you, and they can all get $20,000,” Sanders said. “You can see how one lawsuit could pretty much wipe out an entire clinic.”
The policy has been compared to a bill in Texas that bans abortions after six weeks or when a fetal heartbeat is detected. That law also allows civil lawsuits to be brought against abortion providers or anyone helping provide abortions.
“I stand in solidarity with all Idahoans who seek to protect the lives of preborn babies,” Little wrote to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, the state senate president. “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.”
Idaho Democrats expressed similar objections to the civil lawsuit approved by the bill.
“The vigilante aspect of this bill is absurd,” said Idaho Democratic Rep. Lauren Necochea according to AP News. “Its impacts are cruel, and it is blatantly unconstitutional.”
Though the bill will go into effect in 30 days, it is expected to be challenged in court before the end of April.