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News >  Idaho

Idaho governor signs ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion ban bill

UPDATED: Tue., April 27, 2021

Idaho Gov. Brad Little speaks at a news conference Sept. 3, 2020, at the Statehouse in Boise.  (Idaho Statesman)
Idaho Gov. Brad Little speaks at a news conference Sept. 3, 2020, at the Statehouse in Boise. (Idaho Statesman)
By Keith Ridler Associated Press

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday signed into law legislation that would outlaw nearly all abortions in conservative Idaho by banning them once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

The Republican governor signed the bill that contains a “trigger provision,” meaning it won’t go into effect unless a federal appeals court somewhere in the country upholds similar legislation from another state.

The measure makes providing an abortion to a woman whose embryo has detectible cardiac activity punishable by up to five years in prison. It would also allow the woman who receives the abortion to sue the provider.

Fetal cardiac activity can be detected as early as six weeks using an invasive vaginal ultrasound – before many women discover they are pregnant.

“Idaho is a state that values the most innocent of all lives – the lives of babies,” Little said in a statement. “We should never relent in our efforts to protect the lives of the preborn. Hundreds and hundreds of babies lose their lives every year in Idaho due to abortion, an absolute tragedy. I appreciate Idaho lawmakers for continuing to protect lives by passing this important legislation, and I am proud to sign the bill into law today.”

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports there were 1,513 induced abortions in 2019. The agency says 1,049 of those occurred within the first nine weeks.

The bill has exceptions for rape, incest or medical emergency. The exception for rape and incest would likely be impossible for many women to meet, opponents said, because Idaho law prevents the release of police reports in active investigations.

Opponents also said many rape victims don’t want to report the crimes to law enforcement right away, and even if they do, the reports are often sealed for three months or more. They say forcing women to immediately report their rape and then fight to get a copy of the report quickly enough for any abortion would deeply compound the trauma they have already experienced.

The medical emergency provision, opponents said, is so vague as to likely be of little help to medical professionals.

Supporters of the legislation say they would like it challenged in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then decided at the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority after former President Donald Trump appointed three conservative justices.

Ultimately, backers would like to see the proposed Idaho law play a role in overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide. A reversal of Roe would mean abortion policy would revert to the states.

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