Legal limits on abortion-related travel are the focus of a new law and a new lawsuit in Idaho, with Gov. Brad Little signing a bill Wednesday that makes it illegal for an adult to help a minor get an abortion without parental consent.
Meanwhile, two doctors and a regional Planned Parenthood affiliate have filed a lawsuit over the state’s newly released interpretation of a separate anti-abortion law because the attorney-general says it prohibits physicians from even referring patients to out-of-state abortion providers.
The new " abortion trafficking " law signed on Wednesday, is the first of its kind in the U.S. It makes it illegal to either obtain abortion pills for a minor or to help them leave the state for an abortion without their parents’ knowledge and consent. Anyone convicted will face two to five years in prison and could also be sued by the minor’s parent or guardian. Parents who raped their child will not be able to sue, though the criminal penalties for anyone who helped the minor obtain an abortion will remain in effect.
The law also gives the attorney-general the ability to prosecute someone for alleged violations of the law, even if the county prosecutor – who would normally be responsible for filing a criminal case – declines to prosecute.
To sidestep violating a constitutional right to travel between states, Idaho’s law makes illegal only the in-state segment of a trip to an out-of-state abortion provider.
Still, Planned Parenthood Federation of America wrote in a press release that the law raises pressing concerns about the state’s legal ability to restrict residents from travelling to neighbouring states to access abortion care.
The law will isolate young people and put them in danger, including those who are in abusive situations, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Alexis McGill Johnson said.
“They will stop at nothing to control what we do and where we go – even if it means holding people hostage when trying to access essential health services,” McGill Johnson wrote in the release.
Opponents have promised a legal battle.
“Yet again, Idaho’s governor disregarded constituents and signed HB 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,” Idaho State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates-West said Wednesday on Twitter.
Idaho, like many states, has multiple abortion laws on the books.
Two Idaho doctors and a regional Planned Parenthood affiliate sued Wednesday over the state’s interpretation of another strict abortion ban, contending it unconstitutionally limits interstate travel for abortions. The strict ban makes it illegal for physicians to use “any means to intentionally terminate the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman,” if they know the termination will reasonably cause the death of the unborn child.
The strict ban went into effect shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. A legal opinion issued late last month by the state’s new attorney-general, Raul Labrador, says that the ban also prohibits Idaho health care providers from issuing prescriptions for abortion medications that patients could pick up in other states, or even referring them to a health care provider across state lines for abortion services.
Drs. Caitlin Gustafson and Darin Weyrich and Planned Parenthood Great Northwest are all represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho. They say the attorney-general’s interpretation of the law violates the First Amendment’s free speech provisions as well as the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause. The commerce clause generally prohibits states from imposing major roadblocks to interstate commerce or attempting to regulate out-of-state activity that is legal in the state where it occurs.
It’s possible that any ruling in the new lawsuit could also affect the “trafficking” bill, because it too attempts to place limits on interstate travel.
Idaho is one of 13 states that already effectively ban abortion in all stages of pregnancy, and is one of a handful of states that already have laws penalizing those who help people of any age obtain abortions.
State leaders in Washington, Oregon and California have promoted the West Coast as a safe haven for abortion procedures, and lawmakers in Oregon and Washington are considering bills to shield abortion providers and patients from criminal liability. Oregon’s bill would allow physicians to provide abortion to anyone regardless of age, and would bar them in certain cases from disclosing that information to parents.
Thirty-six states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion, though most allow exceptions under certain circumstances like medical emergencies, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group supporting abortion rights.