Idaho’s abortion laws: Where lawsuits stand and what comes next

Posted at 4:58 PM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 18:58:11-04

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho's six-week ban on abortion officially became law Friday, 30 days after a court upheld a similar ban in Georgia following the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade.

Another, even more, restrictive law is set to take effect next week, but that's not guaranteed.

Hb366, which passed in April of 2021, took effect Friday.

It prohibits abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected or roughly six weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for documented cases of rape or incest, or if a mother’s life is in danger. Doctors who perform abortions after six weeks could lose their medical, face felony charges and up to 5 years in prison.

Related: Multiple lawsuits are pending against Idaho abortion laws. Here's what to know.

A second Idaho abortion law took effect last week. Senate bill 1309 adds a civil enforcement mechanism to the heartbeat bill. It allows certain family members of people who receive an abortion after six weeks to sue the doctor.

A mother, father, grandparent, sibling, aunt, or uncle of the fetus could sue for a minimum $20,000 reward in a successful case. The enforcement mechanism also includes exceptions for documented cases rape and incest and for medical emergencies that present a serious risk of substantial harm to the patient.

Idaho's third abortion law — the total trigger ban — would supersede the fetal heartbeat bill, banning almost all abortions in the state. It's set to take effect next week on August 25.

Planned Parenthood’s regional branch has filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of all three laws and the Idaho Supreme Court consolidated the hearings for those challenges with the next one set for Sept. 29.

Related: ‘Unclear’ language in Idaho’s abortion trigger law causes confusion

Dr. Caitlin Gustafson — a co-plaintiff in the three lawsuits — claims the laws are too vague and could have serious health implications for women.

She says these bans put Idaho doctors in a tough spot, choosing between breaking the oath they take to care for patients and the risk of breaking the law.

"These bans pose an enormous threat to my patients, to their health, to their safety,” she said. "We don't believe that government interference in this decision could ever have positive effects and in fact puts lives at stake and Idahoans in harm's way."

The Department of Justice also filed a lawsuit challenging Idaho's total trigger ban law in August.

That lawsuit argues the trigger law conflicts with the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act which requires hospitals that receive Medicare funding to provide emergency treatment to pregnant women.

A hearing on a motion to block the law from taking effect is set for 9 a.m. Monday in Federal District Court in Boise.