The Idaho Legislature approved a bill to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy Monday, making it the first state to pass legislation similar to a Texas law that is the most restrictive in the country.
The state House passed the Republican-backed measure in a 51-14 vote; the Senate passed it earlier this month.
The bill was inspired by a Texas law that allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or others who help women get abortions after fetal cardiac activity has been detected, around six weeks into pregnancy.
There are some differences between the Idaho bill and the Texas statute.
The Idaho measure is narrower; it 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. The Texas law allows any citizen to file a lawsuit, with the possibility of being awarded $10,000 by a court.
Under the Idaho bill, a doctor could face two to five years in prison if convicted of “criminal abortion.” Civil lawsuits against abortion providers would be allowed 30 days after enactment of the bill.
Unlike the Texas law, the Idaho bill has exceptions for rape and incest.
The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Brad Little, who signed a related measure into law last year. That law's implementation, however, is contingent on a federal appeals court upholding a similar ban from another state, a ruling that would also affect the criminal penalties provision in the bill being sent to the governor’s desk if it's signed into law.
Marissa Morrison, a spokeswoman, said Monday that Little hadn’t seen the bill and doesn’t comment on pending legislation.
Opponents of the Idaho legislation argue it's unconstitutional and note that six weeks is before many women know they’re pregnant.
Jennifer M. Allen, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, a nonprofit group working in Idaho, urged Little to veto the measure.
“Gov. Little must do the right thing, listen to the medical community and veto this legislation before it forces Idaho patients to leave the state for critical, time-sensitive care or remain pregnant against their will,” she said.
Republican lawmakers in several states have introduced legislation modeled on the Texas law. The Idaho bill is the first to make it through a state legislature.
The U.S. Supreme Court let the Texas law go into effect last year, allowing only a narrow challenge to proceed. The Texas Supreme Court ruled against abortion clinics on that issue last week, essentially allowing the law to remain in place pending further legal challenges.
Since the Texas law went into effect, the number of abortions in the state has dropped dramatically, and researchers say the number of Texas women going to clinics in neighboring states and going online to get abortion pills by mail has risen sharply.
The Supreme Court is weighing whether to uphold a Mississippi law that would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the most direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in nearly three decades.
In arguments in December, a majority of the court’s conservative justices indicated they were prepared to discard the court’s previous standard that prevented states from banning abortion before a fetus becomes viable, generally considered to be at about 24 weeks into a pregnancy.