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Gov. Little Signs "Fetal Heartbeat" Bill, But It's Not Law Yet

A woman holding a pregnancy test in her hand.
Jennifer Pack
Almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended.

Governor Brad Little signed legislation Tuesday banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Under House Bill 366, titled the 'Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection act, licensed healthcare professionals who perform an abortion after that time could face up to five years in prison.

A fetal heartbeat can typically be detected around six weeks after conception, before many women may know they are even pregnant. The bill has exceptions for rape, incest or medical emergency, but those crimes would have to be reported to law enforcement for a waiver. Opponents say rape victims won’t be able to obtain proof they need in a timely fashion, as police records are typically sealed during an investigation.

Bill sponsor, State Senator Patti Anne Lodge (R-Caldwell) said there are ample support services available for women in crisis pregnancies.

"Choosing life is supported with compassionate help throughout pregnancy and extends to 18 months after birth," Lodge was quoted in a press release from Governor Little's office. “Life goals can still be achieved for both the mother and child.”

While the governor signed the legislation, the bill only goes into effect if any similar laws in other states are upheld by federal appeals courts or the U.S. Supreme Court.

North Dakota became the first state to pass such a law in 2013, legislation struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016. Courts have tossed similar laws in Arkansas and Iowa, and legal challenges remain pending in states with more recently-passed legislation.

Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

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