Idaho Governor Signs Restrictive Law Banning Abortions After 6 Weeks Despite Calling It 'Unwise'

Gov. Brad Little said he worries that the ban is "both unconstitutional and unwise" and could hurt rape victims, but still signed it into law

Idaho Gov. Brad Little
Idaho Gov. Brad Little. Photo: Keith J Ridler/AP/Shutterstock

Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed a highly restrictive ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy into law on Wednesday, despite expressing concerns that it is "both unconstitutional and unwise."

The law, which the GOP-led legislature called the "Fetal Heartbeat, Preborn Child Protection Act," passed easily in Idaho's Senate and House earlier this month before going to Little, a Republican.

The bill is modeled off of Texas' ban on abortions after six weeks, the first time that a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It has a similar setup to Texas' law, which allows any citizen to act as a whistleblower and sue anyone who helps facilitate an abortion — down to an Uber driver who drives them to the appointment — but Idaho limits people to just suing the abortion provider, and only the father, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle of the fetus can sue.

They are able to bring the lawsuit for up to four years after the abortion, and anyone who successfully sues earns $20,000.

Little said that he supports the legislation, but worries that it goes too far.

"I stand in solidarity with all Idahoans who seek to protect the lives of preborn babies," Little wrote in a letter to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is also president of the state's Senate, The New York Times reported. "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 said that he also had "significant concerns with the unintended consequences this legislation will have on victims of sexual assault," because while the bill bars rapists from suing abortion providers, there is a loophole in the bill that makes it possible for their family members to do so.

"Ultimately, this legislation risks retraumatizing victims by affording monetary incentives to wrongdoers and family members of rapists," the governor said.

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Little also warned that for left-leaning states could copy the setup of this bill for future legislation that would restrict people from owning firearms or getting religious exemptions.

Abortion rights groups have already said that they will challenge this legislation for violating Roe v. Wade, which established the right to abortions until around 23 weeks of pregnancy. But so far, Texas' similar bill has weathered multiple lawsuits and is still in place. And anti-abortion activists are hoping that the conservative-leaning Supreme Court will reverse the protections of Roe v. Wade when they discuss a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks later this year.

Along with Idaho and Texas, multiple other states are working on passing similar bans, including Florida and Arizona.

In reaction to Little signing Idaho's bill into law, Planned Parenthood said they will keep their clinics open and are considering injunctions to stop the law from taking effect.

"This bill is blatantly unconstitutional, and we are committed to going to every length and exploring all our options to restore Idahoans' right to abortion," said Rebecca Gibron, Interim CEO for Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaiʻi, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, which operates the sole three abortion clinics in Idaho. "I want to emphasize to everyone in Idaho that our doors remain open. We remain committed to helping our patients access the health care they need, including abortion.

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