The Idaho state legislature has overwhelmingly passed a Texas-style heartbeat bill that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The governor is expected to sign it into law soon, and it will take effect 30 days afterwards.
Senate Bill 1309 (SB1309), known as the Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act, passed the state House of Representatives on March 3, by a vote of 28-6. The Senate voted in favor of the bill on March 14, by a margin of 51-14. The bill amends a prior heartbeat bill passed in 2021 that was blocked by the federal courts.
The bill contains similarities to the Texas Heartbeat Act, which has survived various court challenges, including at the U.S. Supreme Court and, most recently, at the Texas Supreme Court. Like Texas, the Idaho bill takes enforcement out of the hands of government officials and places it into the hands of private individuals. That feature has been the secret to the success of the Texas law in avoiding being blocked by way of an injunction directed against state law enforcement officials.
Unlike Texas, which allows any private individual to sue those involved in committing or abetting an illegal abortion, Idaho only allows certain family members of the baby to bring a lawsuit against the medical professionals involved, namely: the father, grandparent, sibling, or an aunt or uncle. No lawsuit can be brought by the person who impregnates the mother through rape or incest. Like Texas, the mother cannot be sued. A successful lawsuit will result in a damage award to the family member of at least $20,000 plus costs and attorneys’ fees.
Blaine Conzatti is the president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, a state organization ally of Focus on the Family. In a press release, Conzatti applauded the passage of SB1309.
“We’re really, really close to saving more than 1,000 preborn babies every year in our state,” Conzatti said. “I’m optimistic that Gov. Brad Little will sign this legislation to ensure preborn babies with beating hearts receive the equal protection they deserve.
“These proposed changes to the Idaho Heartbeat Law are constitutionally, scientifically, and morally sound. A similar Texas law has successfully withstood several legal challenges in the federal courts, and we’re confident that this Idaho legislation, if it becomes law, will survive any forthcoming legal challenge and begin saving preborn babies.”
Idaho already has an abortion “trigger law” on its books, which outlaws all abortions if and when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and returns the abortion issue to the states to address. If that should happen this summer in the high court’s pending decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, then Idaho’s trigger law will take precedence over the newly passed heartbeat bill.
The Texas law has been credited with saving over 28,000 preborn lives since it took effect on September 1, 2021. Several states are also considering adopting a Texas-style heartbeat bill.
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