By Dave Andrusko
A bill modeled on but with some differences from the Texas Heartbeat Law is on its way to the desk of Idaho Gov. Brad Little.
The Fetal Heartbeat Bill (SB1309) passed the House Monday after winning approval in the Senate earlier this month. The vote in the House was an overwhelming 51-14.
“If signed by the governor, the new version of Idaho’s abortion ban could take effect as early as April, several months before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban in a case that could overturn or significantly weaken Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion,” according to Washington Post reporter Caroline Kitchener.
Like the Texas law, the Idaho bill is designed to protect unborn children whose hearts have begun to beat, usually at about 6 weeks of pregnancy. Like the Texas law, the enforcement of Idaho’s bill is left to private citizens to sue and not by state officials through criminal penalties.
“They did a very clever thing,” said state Rep. Steven Harris, the Idaho bill’s House sponsor. “They allowed for a civil cause of action, meaning that you could be sued in civil court if someone performs an illegal abortion post-heartbeat.”
Unlike the Texas law, only the abortionist can be sued under Idaho’s version of the law. In addition, unlike the Texas law, enforcement is limited to family members.
Ahead of the vote, state Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R), who co-sponsored the legislation, emphasized that the Texas ban has “withstood three challenges,” referring to the three occasions in which the U.S. Supreme Court passed up an opportunity to block the law since it took effect in September.
“Abortion is not a constitutional right,” Ehardt said. “The Supreme Court in 1973 did something that was never allowed in the first place.”
Texas’s law has been in effect, except for a few days, since September. “On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court said it was unable to stop the ban because the law explicitly prohibits the state officials who were sued from enforcing it,” according to Kate Zernike. Added Rep. Harris, “Abortions are still being stopped in Texas.”
Studies have shown that abortions in Texas have dropped 60% since its law took effect in September.