Idaho passed a “copycat” of Texas’s vigilante abortion ban

"A government agency, the whole state of Idaho, is enabling my family to come after me if I make a choice.”

People gather at a rally to protect abortion rights on International Women's Day in Union Square in ...
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Only three months into 2022, Idaho’s politicians are fighting hard to secure their spot as the absolute worst. On Monday, Idaho’s legislature passed what Planned Parenthood called a “copycat” of Texas’s heinous anti-abortion law. With the bill on its way to Republican Gov. Brad Little, abortion advocates in the state say politicians ignored constituents in drafting and rushing to pass this law.

Also known as the “Fetal Heartbeat, Preborn Child Protection Act”, Senate Bill 1309 bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The only exceptions to this are in cases of a medical emergency, rape, or incest. But that’s not where the bill ends. Taking inspiration from Texas, the bill lets certain individuals, like the father, sibling, or grandparent of the fetus, sue medical professionals who have performed abortions.

These laws are deeply disturbing because they’re a way for politicians to skirt the boundaries of Roe v. Wade. Rather than having the state step in to prohibit abortions, which would flout the ruling, politicians are turning regular people into vigilantes — finding new ways to scare not only those seeking care but health care providers themselves.

S.B.1309 passed with a 51-14 vote. Earlier this month, Democratic state Sen. Melissa Wintrow said, “The bill itself feels violent to me. It feels like an attack on me as a human being able and capable of my own moral decisions about my body. Now, a government agency, the whole state of Idaho, is enabling my family to come after me if I make a choice.”

Aside from skirting judicial review, Idaho’s law is problematic for another reason. Ignoring the linguistic bullshit that is the phrase “preborn child,” these type of fetal heartbeat laws are bad science. The idea is if you hear a heartbeat, then you’ve got a child that can survive birth — except MedicineNet reported that fetal hearts don’t develop until about the 20th week of pregnancy.

So what is that phenomenon at six weeks that conservatives have latched on to? As Gabriela Aguilar, an NYC-based obstetrician-gynecologist, told The New York Times, “What you see and hear on an early ultrasound is embryonic activity — electrical currents being sent through cells that will develop at a much later time into a heart.”

In a statement about S.B. 1309, Planned Parenthood stated that “lawmakers ignored public opinion and rushed through this legislation, looking to capitalize on the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to block Texas’s ban.” Jennifer Allen, CEO of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, noted that while health care providers act by the basic principle of “first, do no harm,” “Idaho politicians have not taken a similar oath, and are determined to ban abortion, no matter the harm it would inflict on their constituents.”

“S.B.1309 is a travesty grounded in bad motives, questionable legality, and no science at all,” Allen continued. “Gov. Little must do the right thing, listen to the medical community, and veto this legislation before it forces Idaho patients to leave the state for critical, time-sensitive care or remain pregnant against their will.” Little, though, has supported strict abortion restrictions in the past.