Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed an abortion bill into law Tuesday that would make it illegal for a woman to terminate her pregnancy after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen as early as six weeks.
The law could effectively make most abortions illegal in the Republican-led state as many women don’t realize they’re even pregnant before they’re six weeks along. But the law has a “trigger” provision, meaning it won’t go into effect until a similar law is upheld by a federal appeals court.
It also makes exceptions for medical emergencies and rape and incest if women can provide a police report. Critics say the rape and incest exception would likely be difficult for some women to meet since Idaho law prevents the release of police reports in active investigations and many women don’t immediately report assaults.
“Idaho is a state that values the most innocent of all lives – the lives of babies,” Little said in a statement Tuesday. “We should never relent in our efforts to protect the lives of the preborn. Hundreds and hundreds of babies lose their lives every year in Idaho due to abortion, an absolute tragedy. I appreciate Idaho lawmakers for continuing to protect lives by passing this important legislation, and I am proud to sign the bill into law today.”
Gov. Brad Little on March 25, 2020, issuing a stay-at-home coronavirus order. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Supporters of the legislation say they would like it challenged in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then decided at the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority after former President Trump appointed three conservative justices.
Under the law, a professional who provides an abortion could face five years in prison and the pregnant woman could sue the professional.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Still also signed a bill this week, outlawing abortions after a heartbeat is detected.
Family Policy Alliance, a pro-life group, said in a statement that the governor “showed that Idaho recognizes the value of every preborn life when he signed the Heartbeat Bill this morning,” according to KIVI-TV in Boise. “We are proud that Idaho can be added to the list of pro-life states leading the charge in offering legal protection for our youngest and most defenseless residents. The action taken today by Gov. Brad Little will ultimately save thousands of precious lives.”
Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates – West, which opposes the legislation, said in a statement on Twitter, “Nothing changes today or in the future. Abortion is still legal in Idaho, even after six weeks. This is a trigger law that would ONLY begin IF a similar ban is upheld in a separate court. And, of course, we’ll sue to stop it then. #idleg #idpol #politicalgames.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.