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Idaho will ban most abortions in the state as the governor signs Texas-style law


Unless the courts intervene, most abortions will be illegal in the state of Idaho in about a month. Idaho lawmakers modeled new legislation there after a Texas abortion ban that took effect in September. And although the Republican governor, Brad Little, expressed reservations about how it might affect rape victims, he went ahead and signed the bill into law yesterday.

NPR's Sarah McCammon covers abortion rights policy. Sarah, thanks for being here. First, just explain for us how similar this Idaho ban is from the one in Texas.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: They both ban most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, and they empower ordinary citizens to enforce those laws by filing lawsuits worth tens of thousands of dollars against anyone suspected of violating them. Now, Idaho's law targets abortion providers specifically, whereas the Texas law targets anyone who, quote, "aids or abets" an illegal abortion. Idaho's new law, which is set to take effect in about 30 days, narrows the scope of who's allowed to sue to just the patient, the person who impregnates the patient and then several of their family members. Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman with Planned Parenthood in Idaho, though, says the impact will be very much the same as the law in Texas.

MISTIE DELLICARPINI-TOLMAN: It provides that Idahoans can spy on their family members and sue abortion providers for providing an abortion after six weeks. And we're talking, you know, people who have nothing to do with the patient.

MARTIN: Yesterday, I understand, after signing the bill into law, the governor there, Brad Little, released a letter expressing some concerns. What is he saying there?

MCCAMMON: So in his letter to the Idaho Senate president, Governor Little said he supports the goal of this law of banning abortion but that he fears using lawsuits to enforce it would, quote, "in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise." So far, the Texas law has survived months of legal challenges because of its novel legal strategy that I just described. But Little worries the same strategy could be used to curtail religious freedoms or gun rights, and he said that he's concerned about the impact on victims of rape and incest. This law does contain exceptions for abortion in those cases but only if they're reported to law enforcement, and Little said the challenges in doing so render that exception meaningless for many victims. But he did sign it nonetheless.

MARTIN: Other supporters of the law have been concerned about this, too - right? - the way that this legislation would affect rape victims. What have they been saying?

MCCAMMON: Right. So the law specifically says that rapists cannot bring these lawsuits, but it does not exclude their family members. And I talked to Carol Tobias with National Right to Life about this. Her group has supported this bill and others like it. And she says she'd want anyone who became pregnant as a result of rape to get counseling and other help, but she says people should carry those pregnancies to term.

CAROL TOBIAS: So we would certainly hope that it wouldn't even take a family member - that there would just not be an abortion.

MARTIN: This Idaho law comes at a time when state legislatures, more broadly, are looking ahead to a major abortion decision expected from the Supreme Court this summer, right?

MCCAMMON: Yeah, there's been lots of activity in state legislatures, similar proposals moving forward in other states. Jessica Arons is with the ACLU, which has been fighting the Texas abortion ban.

JESSICA ARONS: With these laws going into effect, we're going to start to see ripple effects. You're going to see more and more patients displaced and having to travel even further to obtain care.

MCCAMMON: And at the same time, Rachel, we are seeing other states sort of pushing in the other direction, states like Colorado, moving to try to guarantee abortion rights.

MARTIN: NPR's Sarah McCammon. We appreciate your reporting on this. Thank you.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.