Idaho just became the first state to pass a law modeled after Texas’ draconian six-week abortion ban that financially incentivizes private citizens to enforce the law.
The Idaho House of Representatives passed S.B. 1309 on Monday evening in a 51 to 14 vote, just weeks after the Senate passed it. Republican Gov. Brad Little is expected to sign it into law, and it will likely go into effect sometime in April, months before a decision is expected in the U.S. Supreme Court case currently threatening the constitutional right to abortion.
The bill is modeled after Texas’ six-week abortion ban that went into effect in September. The Idaho bill is somewhat different because it limits who can sue and who can be sued, unlike Texas, which allows anyone in the state to sue a person or provider who helps a woman get an abortion after the six-week point. In Idaho, the bill can only be enforced by the patient and their family members including the father of the fetus. Additionally, the only people who can be sued under the Idaho bill are abortion providers. In the Texas law, anyone from an Uber driver to a friend of a patient is vulnerable to a civil lawsuit.
As is, abortion is out of reach for most people in Idaho: In 2017, 95% of Idaho counties had no abortion clinics, and 67% of Idaho women lived in those counties. The state currently has two “trigger bans” on the books awaiting a Supreme Court decision: a waiting period for when a patient can get an abortion and restrictions on health care coverage for the procedure.
Similar to Texas, this bill will likely disproportionately affect poor people, people of color and people who live in rural areas. Those who have the resources will travel across state lines, most likely to Washington and Oregon. Advocates expect a 385% increase of patients traveling into Washington state and about a 230% increase to Oregon, Lisa Humes-Schulz, vice president of policy and regulatory affairs at Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, told HuffPost last month.
In December, the Supreme Court allowed the Texas law, including the extreme enforcement mechanism and the six-week abortion ban, to continue as the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban proceeded in lower courts. And just last week, the Texas Supreme Court, which is entirely made up of Republicans, dealt the final blow in the high-stakes court challenge, ruling that state officials are not responsible for enforcing Texas’ six-week abortion ban and therefore cannot be subjected to such lawsuits.
The go-ahead from the Supreme Court galvanized many anti-abortion extremists to create and support more restrictions. “Wherever we go, whether that be in Texas or Nebraska or Ohio or Kentucky or Florida … we can go anywhere now and say, look, this enforcement mechanism has survived before the Supreme Court of the United States,” Mark Lee Dickson, the architect of the Texas abortion restriction, said in December.
Missouri recently introduced a bill that could signal what’s to come in the wake of laws like Texas’ and Idaho’s. Missouri state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman recently introduced an amendment to several bills that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a resident traveling to get an abortion outside of the state. The Missouri bill not only mirrors the enforcement mechanism in the Texas law but is also a response to what’s happened in the Lone Star State since the law took effect: Many Texans have traveled to neighboring states or beyond to get abortions. The same is expected to happen in Idaho.
The Idaho bill quickly and quietly passed through the state legislature, a deliberate move by Republican lawmakers, said Emily Halverson, a press officer of state media campaigns at Planned Parenthood.
“You didn’t realize this was happening, and that was intentional,” Halverson told HuffPost last month. “They are doing it so quickly that there is not enough time for people to realize what’s happening, and next thing you know they’re going to wake up one day and abortion access is going to be effectively eliminated in the state. That’s by design.”
Several other states have introduced copycat Texas legislation, including Arizona, Ohio, Alabama and Missouri. But the bill out of Ohio goes a step further and would ban abortion at any point in a pregnancy. Technically, Arkansas lawmakers did not formally introduce their bill but rather filed it during a special legislative session this fall. Oklahoma recently introduced a slew of anti-abortion measures, including a Texas copycat. The Sooner State is expected to be the next state to pass a bill modeled after the Texas law.
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