Idaho Senate full size 4-6-21

The Idaho Senate meets on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, at the state Capitol in Boise.

BOISE — The Senate voted 28-7 along party lines in favor of SB 1183 which would make the majority of Idaho abortions illegal after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The bill would require doctors to try to find a heartbeat before performing an abortion. Transvaginal ultrasounds, often criticized as invasive, can detect a heartbeat as early as six weeks into pregnancy. That’s about the time many women come to realize they are pregnant, meaning abortion wouldn’t be an option for them in Idaho if the bill becomes law. A National Center for Biotechnology Information study found that “gestational age at time of pregnancy awareness was 5.5 weeks.”

SB 1183 would place the onus on the doctor. It would be the doctor’s responsibility to try to find the heartbeat. Doctors who fail to do so or perform an abortion despite finding a heartbeat, could later be held responsible. They could be sued by the mother, face between two to five years in prison or may have their medical license revoked temporarily or permanently.

Pregnancies resulting from rape, or in which a woman’s life was in danger, would be the exceptions to the bill. However, a woman would need to provide the doctor with a police report to prove that a rape occurred.

Last year, Little signed a bill that would make “abortion a crime in Idaho if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide,” according to the Associated Press.

Sponsor Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, clarified to the Senate that a trigger provision has been built into the bill that would mean, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, last year’s law would supersede SB 1183.

Debate on the bill lasted nearly an hour. Senate Republicans made emotional appeals as to why the bill should be given the greenlight. Several spoke about hearing their own children’s heartbeats. Others brought up adopted grandchildren who they are grateful were not aborted.

“We have the overarching task and charge to protect life and to show that we as a state value it,” Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, said.

Democrats argued that the bill was based on religion and did not factor in the difficulty of reporting rape.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said lawmakers should not create legislation based on religious beliefs.

“These differing religious views can only be resolved in our hearts, in our minds. They cannot be resolved in the Legislature,” Burgoyne said.

Sen. Ali Rabe, D-Boise, said abortion is a federal issue in which “the law has been set” by the Supreme Court.

“Where we should all stand united is behind the law. This issue is no longer a state issue,” Rabe said.

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, a former director of a women’s center, opposed the requirement that rape victims show a police report before being allowed an abortion. Wintrow said she has seen examples in which police refuse to file a report because they do not believe victims. She also said victims are often too overwhelmed or scared to file a police report.

At least a dozen states have tried to pass “fetal heartbeat laws” this year. Other states have tried to enact similar legislation in the past. So far, all states have had to spend funds defending these bills in higher courts. None have been successful in keeping fetal heartbeat laws on state books.

“This bill is in clear violation of Roe v. Wade and decades of Supreme Court precedent. Every similar ban passed in recent years remains blocked by the courts, and we expect this bill and others like it to be struck down as well. The Idaho legislature must stop passing unpopular, unconstitutional bills. The state’s Constitutional Defense Fund is being pushed to its breaking point by Idaho Republicans without any respect for the state constitution and rule of law. Taxpayer dollars would be better spent on Idahoans who need it most right now in the middle of a deadly pandemic, not paying for political antics,” read a written statement from Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates — Idaho after the vote.

Republicans did not seem concerned with the cost of defending SB 1183 should it become law.

“This isn’t about money. This is about right to life,” C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, said.

The bill will now head to the House.