NRL News

Idaho Supreme Court upholds 3 pro-life laws, affirms no right to abortion

by | Jan 10, 2023

By Skyler Lee

In a stand for life, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that not just one, but three life-affirming state laws can remain in effect – upholding existing abortion bans and affirming that no constitutional right to abortion exists.

On Thursday, January 5, 2022, the Idaho Supreme Court’s 3-2 vote upheld the laws, ruled that the Idaho Constitution does not hold a right to abortion, and dismissed challenges against the three pro-life laws. 

“The Idaho Constitution does not contain an explicit right to abortion,” the Idaho Supreme Court opinion published Thursday said, and further, nor was abortion found to be so “deeply rooted” in the traditions in the history of Idaho at the time of statehood to fairly conclude that abortion was intended to be implicitly protected. 

It also stated that the “Total Abortion Ban,” “6-Week Ban,” and “Civil Liability Law,” each were found to be constitutional because they “rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in protecting prenatal fetal life at all stages of development, and in protecting the health and safety of the mother.” 

The opinion comes after Planned Parenthood and abortionist Dr. Caitlin Gustafson filed three separate challenges with the Idaho Supreme Court – one in April 2022 against the “6-week ban,” and two in July 2022 against the “Total Abortion Ban” and “Civil Liability Law,” claiming all violated the Idaho Constitution. The claims have now been disproven and the argument has been settled by Thursday’s opinion, which commented on all three challenges. 

Here is a summary of each law.

The Total Abortion Ban 

On March 24, 2022, Idaho’s Trigger law, previously known as SB 1385, was signed into law. 

It was triggered and went into effect on August 25, 2022, once Roe v. Wade was overturned. The law, which has been touted as a “total abortion ban,” prohibits abortions at all stages with only exceptions to prevent the mother’s death or if rape or incest has been reported to law enforcement. The law does not permit abortions to prevent self-inflicted harm by the mother, and while it prevents mothers seeking abortions from being prosecuted, any person who performs or attempts to perform an abortion in violation of this law is subject to a felony and 2 to 5 years in prison. 

The 6-Week Ban 

On Tuesday, April 27, 2021, HB 366, otherwise known as the Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act, was signed into law. 

The Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, with the only exceptions being in the event of maternal medical emergency or rape or incest if first reported to law enforcement.

A fetal heartbeat can usually be detected upon 6 weeks gestation, causing many to dub the law a “6-week ban.” The law, however, was not originally allowed to go into effect due to the active status of Roe v. Wade at that time. 

The Civil Liability Law 

On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed SB 1309 into law, amending the Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act of 2021 and modeling it after the Texas Heartbeat Act

The law, much like the Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, with the only exceptions being abortions performed in the case of rape, incest, or maternal medical emergency. 

However, the new Texas-style law relied on citizen enforcement in an effort to prevent the law from being blocked while Roe was still in effect. The law, referred to as the “Civil Liability Law,” allowed healthcare professionals who performed or induced an abortion in violation of the law to be civilly sued for attorney fees and statutory damages of not less than $20,000 by the following:    

1. Any female upon whom an abortion has been attempted or performed

2. The father of the preborn child (unless he fathered the child by means of rape or incest)

3. A grandparent of the preborn child

4. A sibling of the preborn child 

5. An aunt or uncle of the preborn child  

This updated citizen enforcement method allowed the law to go into immediate effect even though Roe v. Wade had yet to be overturned. 

Where Idaho law stands

With so many pro-life laws being upheld, what does that mean for Idaho? 

Thanks to the trigger law, abortion in Idaho is, in fact, prohibited at all stages except in the event abortion is needed to save the life of the mother or after rape or incest if those crimes are reported to law enforcement prior. 

However, post-abortive mothers and family members can still civilly sue abortion providers over abortions performed in violation of the Civil Liability Law

Additionally, if the trigger law were ever overturned, Idaho law would still prohibit most abortions in accordance with the 6-week ban since the Court upheld all three laws as Constitutional protections. 

Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Judicial