Idaho Becomes First US State to Restrict Interstate Travel for Abortion Care

Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday made his state the first in the U.S. to restrict interstate travel for abortion care by signing legislation that aims to prevent minors from traveling to obtain an abortion without parental consent.

The Republican-authored law, H.B. 242, creates a new crime of “abortion trafficking” and establishes a minimum two-year prison sentence—and a maximum of five years—for anyone found guilty of committing it.

The law defines a perpetrator of “abortion trafficking” as “an adult who, with the intent to conceal an abortion from the parents or guardian of a pregnant, unemancipated minor, either procures an abortion… or obtains an abortion-inducing drug for the pregnant minor to use for an abortion by recruiting, harboring, or transporting the pregnant minor within this state commits the crime of abortion trafficking.”

“It shall not be an affirmative defense to a prosecution… that the abortion provider or the abortion-inducing drug provider is located in another state,” the measure’s text states.

Little has said the law, which would empower Idaho’s Republican attorney general to override local prosecutors if they refuse to enforce the restrictions, does not bar adults from traveling to obtain abortion care for themselves.

Current Idaho law bans nearly all abortions, meaning the new measure will, in practice, impact those traveling within Idaho to assist a pregnant minor in obtaining abortion medication from out of state and those crossing state lines to help a minor receive abortion care.

As HuffPost‘s Alanna Vagianos noted, the law “could apply to a grandmother driving a pregnant minor to the post office to pick up a package holding medication abortion or target an older brother driving a pregnant minor to a friend’s house to self-manage an abortion at home.”

With the draconian restrictions set to take effect in less than 30 days, abortion rights groups are vowing to fight as other states are likely to follow Idaho’s lead. Last July, Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have protected the right to travel for abortion nationwide.

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates West said Wednesday that “yet again, Idaho’s governor disregarded constituents and signed H.B. 242 into law, creating the nation’s first crime of so-called ‘abortion trafficking,'”

“This legislation is despicable, and we’re going to do everything in our power to stop it,” the group added. “This bill criminalizes an adult assisting a young person accessing abortion care with the intent of concealing the abortion from their parent. While most young people include their parents in the decision to get an abortion, some are in dangerous, abusive situations.”

“Idaho lawmakers have slipped under the radar with some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country,” the group continued. “Now, they’re using an incredibly serious term like trafficking to talk about young people traveling with trusted adults to access a legal procedure in another state.”

Idaho healthcare providers and advocacy organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, announced Wednesday that they are suing Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador over his claim in a recent legal opinion that Idaho law prohibits medical providers from “either referring a woman across state lines to access abortion services or prescribing abortion pills for the woman to pick up across state lines.”

“Idaho law requires the suspension of a healthcare professional’s license when he or she ‘assists in performing or attempting to perform an abortion,'” Labrador wrote.

The advocacy coalition opposing that interpretation warned Wednesday that it “goes far beyond Idaho’s law and is an extreme attempt to prevent healthcare providers from giving information to patients and to prevent Idahoans from accessing legal health care in another state.”

“This is a five-alarm fire,” said Rebecca Gibron, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky. “Banning abortion wasn’t enough for anti-abortion extremists in Idaho; they now want to ban where you go, what information you’re legally allowed to obtain, and even what health care providers can say.”

“Attorney General Labrador’s opinion is an egregious extension of Idaho’s abortion ban. We won’t stand for it,” Gibron added. “Everyone across the country should be paying attention to this extreme attempt at government overreach to control our movements in and out of the state, control free speech, and access to information. This opinion should worry you even if you don’t live in Idaho.”

 

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