Idaho Passes Version of Texas Heartbeat Act

Idaho passed a pro-life bill Monday modeled on the Texas Heartbeat Act that prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy.

The Republican-controlled Idaho House passed the bill 51-14, and it has now been sent to Republican Governor Brad Little for his signature.

In addition to the limitations applied after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, the Idaho bill includes provisions that allow private citizens to enforce the law through private civil actions. Also, like the Texas law, those actions are authorized against women obtaining illegal abortions, service providers performing illegal abortions and anyone aiding in obtaining an illegal abortion. Persons bringing valid suits are also entitled to awards of up to $20,000.

The new pro-life Heartbeat laws are designed to directly challenge the holding of the Roe v. Wade decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973. That ruling prohibits states from restricting abortions before a fetus is deemed viable, roughly around 23 weeks into pregnancy.

The Supreme Court is currently considering a case arising from Mississippi, where the state has passed a law prohibiting virtually all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi and other interested parties in the case have expressly asked the court to overturn the Roe ruling.

If successful in that regard, the decision on how to regulate abortion would be returned to the states and their citizens for local decisions. A final decision in the Dobbs case is expected in June as the court concludes its current term.

Other states are preparing to pass pro-life statutes in the event the Dobbs case overturns Roe. Some proposals are more restrictive than those passed in Texas and Idaho. If Roe is reversed, the enforcement procedures in the Texas and Idaho laws may be modified.

The private action enforcement procedure has worked as a preventative measure stopping the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court from blocking the operation of the Texas law. Last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court ended a lawsuit brought by abortion providers because state officials are not the proper defendants in challenges to the Heartbeat Act.

Since the Texas Heartbeat Act was signed into law, abortions in the state have decreased by 50 percent compared to the year before the law went into effect.