by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Joy Zavalick
March 17, 2022
On Monday, Idaho passed SB 1309, known as the “Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act.” This makes Idaho the second state to pass a likely enforceable law protecting unborn children after a heartbeat has been detected, as early as three or four weeks after conception. The bill beautifully states that a baby’s heartbeat “signals rhythmically and without pause the presence of a precious and unique life, one that is independent and distinct from the mother’s and one that is also worthy of our utmost protection.”
In Texas, where the nation’s first successfully-enforced Heartbeat Act went into effect in September, the law has saved an estimated 100 babies each day and caused abortions in the state to drop by 60 percent. Overall, the Texas Heartbeat Act is estimated to have saved close to 20,000 babies since going into effect over six months ago. The United States lost 629,898 precious unborn babies to abortion in 2019 alone; now, thanks to the legislative action of pro-life states such as Texas and Idaho, more and more lives are being saved from joining that tragic annual statistic. In these states, the sound of their own heartbeat is all the self-defense against abortionists that unborn babies need.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could overturn the legal precedent of Roe v. Wade and return jurisdiction over abortion legislation to the states, making it possible for states to protect their unborn citizens from the evils of abortion. Currently, the legal framework of Roe prevents states from enforcing pre-viability protections for the unborn; Texas and Idaho have been forced to pass laws placing enforcement in the hands of private citizens rather than the state in order to protect unborn life while the precedent of Roe still applies. According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are certain or likely to protect the unborn with either currently unenforceable laws that will go into effect in the event that Roe is overturned or by passing similar legislation once it is overturned.
Overturning Roe will make it possible for states to pass laws protecting unborn life without the threat of a Supreme Court challenge or being forced to incorporate the private enforcement mechanisms utilized by Texas and now Idaho. This means the state could enforce their life-protecting laws and provide an even more thorough defense for the unborn.
The Idaho bill follows the unique enforcement mechanism of the Texas law with one clear difference. While the Texas law allows any citizen to bring legal action against anyone who carried out an abortion in Texas, the Idaho law allows only the woman on whom the abortion is being carried out, as well as the father, sibling, grandparent, aunt, or uncle of an unborn child, to bring legal action against the abortionist who kills their unborn relative. The bill makes a specific exception that if a child is conceived in rape, the rapist forfeits the fatherly legal right to sue the abortionist. The empowerment of the unborn child’s family to seek justice is especially poignant when considering the helplessness and grief that many family members feel when a loved one undergoes an abortion. Providing a pathway to legal justice for families is beneficial in more ways than one.
Idaho’s victory for the unborn follows Texas’ most recent triumph over legal disputes against its Heartbeat Act. Last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the law against the abortion industry’s latest challenge, ensuring that abortion groups cannot sue to end the law because it relies on private citizens rather than state agents for its enforcement.
SB 1309 now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Brad Little for his signature. This bill actually amends an existing heartbeat protection law that the governor signed last April. That law nearly went into effect last year after successful court rulings on the Texas Heartbeat Act. However, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the Texas law and the addition of some necessary language, this new Idaho bill is poised to go into effect 30 days after the governor’s signature.
Idaho also has a law that would protect unborn life from conception set to supersede this heartbeat law and go into effect whenever Roe v. Wade is overturned. As the nation awaits the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, the potential to return abortion legislation jurisdiction to the states could be within reach. Passing this heartbeat protection shows that the people of Idaho want to protect unborn life now and are looking forward to the day when they can finally protect unborn life from conception.
Idaho, nicknamed the “Gem State” for its abundance of mineral resources, has taken an enormous step toward protecting its most precious natural resource: children. Texas and Idaho have demonstrated their commitment to saving the unborn from abortion to the greatest extent possible under the existing framework of Roe. Will the other 12 states with existing heartbeat protection laws that are not currently enforceable follow suit?
For more information about state abortion laws, see: frc.org/prolifemaps