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Restrictive Idaho abortion law won't be enacted following Texas' latest abortion bill

Idaho lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1385 in 2020 that bans most types of abortions. But that law isn't enforced until the state is granted that level of power.

IDAHO, USA — Idaho lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1385 in March of 2020 which limits most kinds of abortions in the state, with certain exceptions like rape and incest.

However, that law isn't enforced until, "the US Supreme Court or the US Constitution restores to the states their authority to prohibit abortion," according to the legislature's website. 

This is colloquially known as a trigger law.

As one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws took effect in Texas this week, the U.S. Supreme Court voted not to take action on an emergency appeal. The Texas law bans abortion after six weeks; those who oppose the law say it's unconstitutional.

While it may appear that Texas has been granted the authority to enact restrictive abortion laws against Supreme Court precedent, former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy says that's not the case.

"[The supreme court's] decision not to hear the Texas case does not restore to the states the authority to prohibit abortion," Leroy said.

Moreover, this decision does not trigger Senate Bill 1385, according to University of Idaho Law Professor Shaakirrah Sanders. She explained to KTVB that the court has to make a firm decision, ruling the Texas law to be constitutional,  for the trigger law to be enforced in Idaho.

Senate Bill 1385 states that the law shall become effective within 30 days of the following occurrences:

  • The issuance of the judgment in any decision of the United States Supreme Court that restores to the states their authority to prohibit abortion.
  • Adoption of an amendment to the United States constitution that restores to the states their authority to prohibit abortion.

"A particular state adopting a particular statute doesn't have any implications for this law in Idaho," Leroy said.

But just because the Supreme Court didn't hear the case against Texas this week, that doesn't mean another case won't come back around.

"It is very likely this case could be back before the Supreme Court on the question of constitutionality. But that normally takes some time," Sanders said.

However, the mere possibility of overturning precedent, and triggering Senate Bill 1385, has Planned Parenthood worried in Idaho.

"This is a loud alarm that access to abortion is in real danger, especially here in Idaho. While abortion remains legal in Idaho today, a ban on abortion as early as six weeks could go into effect if the Supreme Court or another district court rules in favor of similarly restrictive ban. Planned Parenthood wants to make it clear that abortion is still legal in Idaho today and we are not new to this fight,  we will not back down in our fight to keep abortion safe and legal in all states," Planned Parenthood's Idaho State Director Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman told KTVB in a statement.

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