Idaho is the first state in the U.S. to enact a law outlining abortion restrictions similar to those here in Texas. Like Texas, Idaho is allowing families of those seeking abortion to sue anyone who “aids” or “abets” a woman who gets an abortion around six weeks of pregnancy. Other state legislatures across the country are also introducing similar bills.
Seema Mohapatra is the Murray visiting professor of law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She is the soon-to-be M.D. Anderson Professor of Health Law at SMU.
Idaho’s new law would, like the Texas statue, essentially ban abortions up to six weeks, or around the time fetal cardiac activity is detected, by allowing family members of a fetus to sue abortion providers for “aiding” or “abetting” a relative seeking an abortion.
“The amount of money that you can sue for the minimum amount in the Idaho law is $20000 plus legal fees. And it allows the lawsuits to go up to four years after an abortion,” Mohapatra said.
“Another key difference is that the Idaho law does have an exception for cases of rape or incest,” Mohapatra said. “But it’s not as protective as it may seem because it requires that someone has made a police report claiming that rape or incest, in order for it to be exempt from this law, which we know for this type of crime, these often this often goes unreported.”
Idaho’s “copycat” of Texas’ Senate Bill 8 is likely not the last abortion ban that will be adopted by Republican-led states, many of which are already considering similar laws.
“They’re looking around and kind of feeling empowered by decisions like what has happened with the SB 8 and other decisions, and they’re seeing lower courts kind of hesitant to rule on abortion cases,” Mohapatra said. “If the law that’s being considered is going to go into effect after the Supreme Court’s decision [over Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban] over the summer. So, there’s a lot of kind of political gambling at play that nothing’s going to happen.”
This post has been updated to clarify which individuals can sue abortion providers under new abortion laws.