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Idaho doctors who perform abortions could face civil liability under new bill

Courtesy of the state of Idaho

The provision would add to the state's "fetal heartbeat" bill approved last year

An Idaho Senate committee has advanced a bill that will make it more difficult to perform an abortion in the Gem State.

The bill adds to the law approved last year by the legislature, which made it illegal to have an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, perhaps as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That law will take effect only if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of a similar law in Texas.

The Idaho law already authorizes a two-to-five-year jail term for medical professionals in those cases.

What’s new with this version is that it would add the potential for civil lawsuits against the providers who do the actual procedures.

“Unlike the Texas law, we are not creating civil liability for those who abet an unlawful abortion,” said Blaine Conzatti, the president of the Idaho Family Policy Center at a hearing of the Senate State Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

He says there is another way Idaho’s bill does not go as far as the Texas law. The Texas law reads, “Any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state, may bring a civil action against any person who (1) performs or induces an abortion in violation of this subchapter or (2) knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subchapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter.”

“We have limited standing only to family members of the pre-born baby,” Conzatti said.

Wednesday’s committee hearing lasted more than 90 minutes. Advocates for a woman’s right to choose testified against the bill, arguing it continues to chip away at women’s reproductive rights. They say it’s an attempt to intimidate providers who perform abortions by allowing family members of women who go through the procedure to sue for damages.

“We must be clear that this is about much more than abortion,” said Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, the Idaho director for the Planned Parenthood Alliance. “This dangerous tactic could have widespread consequences for our constitutional rights. Laws like this could be used to undermine any number of other types of protective constitutional rights, from gun rights to marriage equality.”

She says the Texas law will face multiple challenges in court and, if Idaho’s statute becomes law, she predicts the same will come true in the Gem State.

The Senate State Affairs Committee sent the bill to the Senate floor, where it appears it will face little resistance. Nineteen of the 35 state senators have signed on as co-sponsors.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.