Idaho joins growing list of states to legislate protections for the unborn

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


The Idaho House of Representatives on Monday passed a measure modeled after Texas’ “heartbeat bill,” banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected and allowing individuals to sue abortion providers who violate the directive.

The state House voted 51 to 14 to approve the legislation, with no Democratic support, following its passage in the Senate earlier this month. The bill currently awaits the signature of Gov. Brad Little (R), after which it could go into effect as early as April, well ahead of an anticipated ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban in a case that threatens to undercut Roe v. Wade.

“This bill makes sure that the people of Idaho can stand up for our values and do everything in our power to prevent the wanton destruction of innocent human life,” Republican Rep. Steven Harris, the bill’s sponsor, said after the vote, as reported by the Associated Press.

The legislation provides legal protections to unborn children after fetal cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks. The Supreme Court recently allowed the Texas law to stand and ruled against a final challenge from abortion providers in the state last week. 

The Idaho measure is an expansion of an existing Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act under which providers who perform abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat can face felony charges punishable by up to five years in jail. That law, however, includes a “trigger” provision, meaning its implementation is dependent upon a court ruling upholding a similar law in any other state and thus remains on hold. 

Idaho’s bill also borrows from one of the more controversial elements of the Texas law, which establishes a cash reward for citizens who file a successful lawsuit against abortion providers who violate the law, though with certain limitations that don’t exist in the Texas iteration; namely, that enforcement can only be carried out by family members, including the infant’s father. A rapist is prohibited from suing. Family members who prevail in their suits are allowed to collect $20,000 in cash judgments from the abortion provider, as well as legal fees incurred, and can sue up to four years after the date the abortion was performed.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates vow legal challenges should the bill pass, arguing that it is unconstitutional and disproportionately affects minorities and underserved communities

“It is appalling that anyone could look at the chaos and harm in Texas over the past six months and think, ‘I want that for the people in my state.’ But today, anti-abortion politicians in Idaho did just that,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.

“Make no mistake: Planned Parenthood will continue to provide care in Idaho, and we will continue fighting for our patients and communities. We’re not done,” she added.