BOISE, Idaho (CN) – The Idaho Senate passed a bill Thursday that would ban abortions in the state in the event the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade.
The bill states that performing an abortion in the state of Idaho would warrant criminal punishment should Roe, which has defined nationwide abortion rights since 1973, ever be overturned. Under the bill, only the doctor or individual performing the abortion could be charged, not the patient. The bill also includes exceptions to these regulations, including in cases of rape or incest or if the life of the mother is in danger.
Republican Senator Todd Lakey said that it is unclear when or if Roe would be overturned, but that the bill’s trigger function would allow it to take effect without any further action in the event that occurs.
“The ability to take action is a question of time,” Lakey said. “If this bill can save the life of one unborn child, then it is worth it. It becomes effective without a need for future legislative action.”
The Democrats in the Idaho Senate claimed that the bill would needlessly criminalize physicians.
Senator Janie Ward-Engelking said the bill could also prove challenging as Idaho currently faces a shortage of physicians and a bill targeting them could present some serious consequences.
“It’s something that is going to cause us to lose physicians, and I think that’s a great concern for everyone,” Ward-Engelking, a Democrat, said.
The passage of the bill in the Idaho Senate comes as the future of Roe is hotly debated. Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and both are thought to lean conservative. Their appointments have raised speculation as to the future of Roe.
But a poll conducted this past fall by the Pew Research Center reported 70% of Americans do not want Roe overturned. Just 28% said they would support the Supreme Court striking down the decision.
The pollster reports support for the right to abortion has increased in recent years as Democrats have become more supportive in recent decades.
Several states in the past have attempted to pass laws that restrict abortion rights, with most either struck down by judges or deemed unenforceable.
The Idaho bill marks the first effort to pre-emptively criminalize performing abortions should Roe be overturned.
The bill next heads to the Idaho House of Representatives, where Republicans currently hold the majority. Should it pass the House, it would go to Republican Governor Brad Little for signing.