On Wednesday, Idaho became the first state to follow Texas’ lead on banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy with a private lawsuit enforcement mechanism that awards thousands of dollars to private citizens who snitch on abortion providers.
Idaho’s bounty-hunter style enforcement model is a bit more limited than Texas in that only family members of the so-called “preborn child” can file a lawsuit. But that means if a pregnancy occurred through rape, the rapist’s relatives can sue.
With all that in mind, Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signed the ban on Wednesday, but rest assured, he knows the law is an absolute nightmare and he really doesn’t like it, you guys.
Little sent Idaho Lt. Governor and Senate President Janice McGeachin – who’s also running a primary challenge against Little – a letter on Wednesday officially informing her that he had signed the legislation known as SB 1309 into law.
But most of the letter was Little explaining why the thing he just signed into law was bad.
“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,” he wrote. “Deputizing private citizens to levy hefty monetary fines on the exercise of a disfavored but judicially recognized constitutional right for the purpose of evading court review undermines our constitutional form of government and weakens our collective liberties.”
The Republican governor pointed out that as Idaho, Texas and other red states weaponize the private court system to gut constitutionally-protected abortion access, progressive states like New York and California could play that same card to ban gun ownership, for example.
“None of the rights we treasure are off limits,” he wrote.
Little’s fear on that point isn’t unfounded: Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) unveiled a bill that would allow Californians to sue gun manufacturers and distributors in a ban “quite literally modeled” after Texas’ infamous law.
Little also laid out his “significant concerns” with how the ban could harm victims of sexual assault and incest. Under the law, victims are allowed to get an abortion – but only if they provide a police report.
The governor noted that the well-established hurdles rape victims have to go through to report their assault to law enforcement “render the exception meaningless for many.”
“Ultimately this legislation risks retraumatizing victims by affording monetary incentives to wrongdoers and family members of rapists,” he wrote.
The governor finished the letter by urging lawmakers to “promptly rectify any unintended consequences” of the law and ensure that the state “sufficiently protects the interests of victims of sexual assault.”
The Idaho ban differs in some ways from Texas’ law: The private citizens who can sue under the law are limited to family members of the so-called “preborn child,” while Texas allows anyone to file a suit. However, those family members can include relatives of the rapist if the pregnancy came from assault, and plaintiffs in Idaho can win a minimum of $20,000, whereas Texas’ minimum is $10,000.
Read Little’s letter below: