BOISE — Lawmakers on a Senate panel on Friday introduced a new version of legislation that would outlaw abortions in Idaho after fetal heartbeats are detected.
The Senate State Affairs Committee approved holding a public hearing on the measure that increases to a felony the penalty for performing those abortions. Under the new bill, women who have those abortions could also sue people who performed them.
The penalty in the previous version of the bill called for disciplinary action for medical professionals by the Idaho Board of Medicine.
The bill would require doctors before performing abortions to try to detect fetal heartbeats.
If they are found, abortions would be prohibited except if a woman’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy is due to rape or incest. A police rape report would be required before an abortion is performed for a woman with a pregnancy due to rape.
Fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
Similar bills have passed in about a dozen 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.
If the new bill becomes law, it would go into effect after any federal appeals court ruling or U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding similar laws in other states.
Blaine Conzatti, executive director of the Family Policy Alliance of Idaho group that opposes abortion, said that provision is aimed at protecting Idaho taxpayers from defending against lawsuits.
But Republican Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder, who supports the measure, said he was troubled by the potential law going into effect following a federal appeals court ruling because appellate courts are not the final say, meaning Idaho could lose in court if sued. Winder still voted to introduce the measure.
Conzatti said other changes in the bill include making it more in line with a law Republican Gov. Brad Little signed last year 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 abortions in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother.
A Supreme Court reversal would mean that abortion policy would revert to the states.
Conzatti said that if Roe v. Wade is overturned and both last year’s legislation and the “heartbeat” bill become law, then last year’s legislation would take precedence.
“In the event they’re both enforceable, the trigger law will supersede the heartbeat law,” he said. “That’s just because the trigger law that was passed last year is more robust for a post-Roe world.”
A date for the public hearing on the legislation hasn’t been set.
“What this bill is meant to do is punish pregnant people and the medical professionals who care for them. Idaho deserves better from its elected officials and we will fight to ensure access to basic health care, including abortion remains safe, legal, and attainable,” Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, the Idaho director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in a statement.
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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