BOISE – A panel of Idaho lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation that would outlaw an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The Senate State Affairs Committee cleared the way for a hearing on the bill with 7-2 vote with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed that would require doctors before performing abortions to try to detect fetal heartbeats.
If fetal heartbeats are detected, abortions would be prohibited unless a woman’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy is due to rape or incest. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.
Similar bills have passed in about a dozen other states but are tied up in courts. Abortion rights advocates and opponents are waiting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in and rules whether any of the stricter bans are constitutional. Former President Donald Trump named three conservative justices who abortion opponents believe could help their cause.
“We believe that the judicial environment is such that we could very well see a decision in the next one to two years on this issue, and we want to have this law on the books ready to go into effect when that decision happens,” Blaine Conzatti, executive director of the Family Policy Alliance of Idaho group that opposes abortion, told lawmakers.
Conzatti said the proposed Idaho law, if it is enacted, would go into effect after any federal appeals court ruling or U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding similar laws in other states. He said that provision of the bill was put in place to protect Idaho taxpayers from defending against lawsuits.
“We recognize that there may be a time, if this is signed into law, it could be defended in court,” Conzatti said. “We just want to make sure that we don’t prematurely go into court to fight that battle before there exists court precedent somewhere to defend it.”
However, Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett said that a ruling at the appellate level wouldn’t keep Idaho out of court and forced to potentially pay legal costs before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
A hearing on the bill hasn’t yet been scheduled.
Idaho Republican Gov. Brad Little last year signed into law legislation making abortion a crime in Idaho if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The Idaho measure made into law last year includes exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
A Supreme Court reversal would mean that abortion policy would revert to the states.
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.
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