Abortions are now illegal in Idaho.
On Thursday, the state’s “trigger law” — prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of federal abortion protections – went into effect, making it a crime to have an abortion, with few opportunities for a defense.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision this summer, several lawsuits challenging Idaho’s abortion restrictions have so far failed to fully block the laws, which include both criminal and civil enforcement mechanisms.
Here’s a breakdown of Idaho’s abortion laws and where they stand today.
Idaho criminalizes all abortions
Idaho’s “criminal abortion” statute — which the Legislature codified in 2020 — makes it a felony to perform or attempt to perform an abortion at any stage of pregnancy.
According to the law, abortion is the intentional termination of a pregnancy, with the knowledge that the termination will, “with a reasonable probability” cause the death of an “unborn child.” Birth control is not considered abortion under the law.
Felony medical abortion carries a minimum sentence of two years and up to five years in prison. In addition, doctors who commit criminal abortions will be suspended for six months for the first offense and permanently recalled for the second, the law says.
Someone performing the procedure can avoid prosecution for criminal abortion in three ways: if the pregnancy was the result of incest or rape, or if the procedure was “necessary to prevent the death” of the pregnant woman.
Cases of rape or incest qualify as a defense to criminal liability only if abortion providers can prove they saw a copy of a police report documenting the incest or rape.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill late Wednesday also ruled in another notable exemption — at least, a temporary one. The enabling law would not immediately apply to hospital doctors in emergency situations when an abortion could save a pregnant woman’s life or prevent serious harm.
Federal law requires hospitals receiving Medicare funding to “provide necessary stabilization therapy” to patients experiencing a medical emergency. The U.S. Justice Department this month asked a federal court to permanently block the state’s final abortion ban to the extent that it conflicts with the federal care requirement.
Winmill on Wednesday granted the Justice Department’s request for a preliminary injunction, meaning the state cannot prosecute doctors — or revoke their licenses — for providing emergency abortions until the case is settled.
The judge also wrote that the Justice Department’s case “will likely succeed” in its argument that federal law trumps state law.
Idaho’s “fetal heartbeat” law
Another Idaho law – which took effect six days ago, as of Friday – bans abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected. But the law criminalizing abortion at all stages is more restrictive and therefore overrides the fetal heartbeat law.
There is, however, a civil enforcement mechanism within the fetal pulse law that remains effective. Allows family members of a fetus to sue a health care provider who performs an abortion after electrical activity has been detected.
Idaho law defines fetal heartbeat as cardiac activity or “the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.” Doctors said the latter could be signs of electrical impulses from cells beginning to form a heart. Such signs appear around six weeks into pregnancy and before many people know they are pregnant.
Under the Civil Action Act, a father, grandfather, brother, aunt or uncle can seek at least $20,000 in damages from a doctor who “knowingly or recklessly” performed or attempted to perform an abortion after detecting a heart condition. or electrical activity. .
The Fetal Pulse Act provides an exception for an abortion performed during a “medical emergency,” defined as a complication that requires an abortion to prevent death or “irreversible impairment of bodily function” of the pregnant woman.
The law does not allow a father who impregnated the mother through rape or incest to seek compensation. However, it gives his parents, siblings, aunts and uncles who can sue.
The civil action exists independently of any criminal action, so a medical provider can be sued even if the abortion is not criminally prosecuted.