The Idaho state Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy and hand people the ability to sue over illegal abortions. This makes the legislative chamber the first in the country to pass a copycat version of the infamous Texas abortion ban.
“I am worried about the person who doesn’t go to college or drops out of school because they’re forced to continue a pregnancy [that] they don’t want to have. I’m worried about the impact that will have on the rest of their lives,” Erin Berry, who provides abortions in Idaho and serves as Planned Parenthood’s Washington state medical director, told VICE News. “We’ve made a lot of progress on gender equality and to me the right to abortion is essential to that.”
Legislators in at least 11 states have introduced legislation that mimics the Texas ban, which has devastated abortion access in the Lone Star State since it went into effect six months ago. The month after the ban took effect, abortions in clinics fell off by nearly 60 percent, while demand for at-home abortion pills surged.
But Idaho’s bill is now the closest in the nation to becoming law.
The Idaho bill isn’t exactly identical to its Texas predecessor, however. Unlike the Texas ban, where complete strangers can sue anyone who “aids or abets” an illegal abortion, the Idaho ban limits the group of people who can sue to abortion patients and a grandparent, father sibling, or aunt and uncle of “the preborn child.” Someone who impregnates a person through rape or incest is blocked from suing—but the bill doesn’t seem to block a family member who simply disagrees with the patient’s decision to end their pregnancy.
Under the Idaho bill, “medical professionals” could be sued for no less than $20,000 in statutory damages.
Berry pointed out that, in reality, someone who is six weeks pregnant means that they’ve only been able to confirm the pregnancy, at most, two weeks ago.
“Two weeks—it’s just not enough time for most people to make a decision, even though they’re pregnant, get time off work or get child care, and find an appointment,” said Berry, who has treated abortion patients fleeing the Texas ban. “With Covid, the whole health care system has been gravely impacted. We’re all facing staffing shortages and therefore wait times for appointments, across the health care spectrum, are longer.”
She continued, “Even if you called the day you had a positive pregnancy test, you very well may not be able to get in anywhere in your state, even now, to get that appointment.”
“For somebody to reach across the table into my body, not their own body, doesn’t really seem on par with Idaho’s values,” Alexa Roitman, an Idaho resident who testified at an Idaho senate committee hearing on the bill, told VICE News. Had this Idaho bill been in effect at the time she got her abortion, Roitman said, she would not have been able to get the procedure. She was shocked by the legislation.
“It just feels really hypocritical. It doesn’t really make sense in the state of Idaho, considering that they are all for property rights, they’re all for gun rights,” Roitman said. “They’re all about autonomy, what’s mine is mine.”
The Supreme Court is currently deliberating over a case that threatens to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. If the justices decide to obliterate Roe, this Idaho copycat bill may become moot. Idaho, like 12 other states, has a law on the books that would ban most abortions in the event that Roe is overturned.