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Planned Parenthood files petition to block Idaho abortion law

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Protesters demonstrate on Feb. 28, 2022, at the Idaho Capitol Building during rally held by several abortion rights activists, including Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho and Legal Voice. (Kelcie Moseley-Morris/Idaho Capital Sun)

Legislation that would allow family members to sue providers is scheduled to become law on April 22

Planned Parenthood Great Northwest announced in a press release Wednesday morning that the organization filed a petition with the Idaho Supreme Court to block an abortion law that allows civil lawsuits against medical professionals who provide abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound.

“The abortion ban blatantly undermines patients’ right to privacy. It also improperly and illegally delegates law enforcement to private citizens, violating the separation of powers and allowing plaintiffs without injury to sue, in violation of the Idaho Constitution,” the organization wrote in the press release.

Lawyers from the law firms WilmerHale and Bartlett French filed the petition on behalf of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky and Idaho provider Dr. Caitlin Gustafson.

The law is scheduled to take effect on April 22, 30 days after Gov. Brad Little signed the legislation. Little issued a transmittal letter with his signature saying he had significant concerns about unintended consequences and the civil enforcement mechanism itself. Little said he supported the pro-life policy but thought the civil piece would soon prove “unconstitutional and unwise.”

Senate Bill 1309 awards no less than $20,000 to the mother, father, grandparents, siblings, aunts or uncles of the fetus or embryo in a successful lawsuit against a medical provider within four years of the abortion procedure. The law is modeled after a similar effort in Texas and is the first successful attempt at the same type of legislation in other states. In September, the U.S. Supreme Court did not grant an injunction that would have kept the Texas law from going into effect because the law relies on enforcement through private action rather than through the government.

Idaho’s law does not include those who might be “aiding and abetting” abortions after six weeks like the Texas bill does.

Idaho’s law includes exceptions for medical emergencies and for women who have become pregnant through rape or incest, as long as there is documentation provided to the doctor, such as a police report. The Texas law does not include those exceptions.

Planned Parenthood said the ban would not only deny Idahoans a constitutional right to abortion, but it would also eliminate access for those who do not have the time or money to travel out of state for care. The ban will also disproportionately affect communities of color, the organization said.

“It should be clear to everyone that the Idaho State Legislature intentionally abandoned the ordinary rule of law when they passed this six-week abortion ban. Then the governor joined their effort to deny his constituents their constitutional rights when he signed the abortion ban into law — despite his own acknowledgement that it was wrong,” the release said. “Unless this abortion ban is stopped, Idahoans will watch in real time as their government strips them of the very rights they were sworn to protect. Everyone deserves to make their own decisions about their bodies, families, and lives — and we’re going to keep fighting to make sure that is a reality.”