Idaho already has some of the most extreme abortion restrictions on the books, with nearly all abortions banned in the state and an affirmative defense law that essentially asserts any doctor who provides an abortion is guilty until proven innocent. And now Idaho Republicans have set their sights on hindering certain residents from traveling out of state to get an abortion.
House Bill 242, which passed through the state House and is likely to move quickly through the Senate, seeks to limit minors’ ability to travel for abortion care without parental consent. The legislation would create a whole new crime — dubbed “abortion trafficking” — which is defined in the bill 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 minor. “Recruiting, harboring, or transporting the pregnant minor within this state commits the crime of abortion trafficking,” the legislation adds.
Abortion trafficking would be a felony, and those found guilty would face two to five years in prison. The legislation also includes a statute allowing the Idaho attorney general to supersede any local prosecutor’s decision, preemptively thwarting any prosecutor who vows not to enforce such an extreme law.
Since the bill would criminalize anyone transporting a pregnant minor within the state to get an abortion or to obtain medication abortion, it could apply to an aunt who drives a pregnant minor to the post office to pick up a package that includes abortion pills. Or it could target an older sibling who drives a pregnant minor to a friend’s house to self-manage an abortion at home. Either violation would carry a minimum sentence of two years in prison.
The legislation doesn’t actually say anything about crossing state lines, but Republican lawmakers are creative. Most pregnant people in Idaho are not traveling to obtain an abortion elsewhere in the state, since nearly all abortions are illegal in Idaho; they’re traveling to the border with the intent of crossing state lines, likely into Washington, Oregon or Montana, to get an abortion there.
“Technically, they’re not criminalizing people driving in Washington state with a minor. The crime is the time that someone is driving the minor in Idaho,” said David Cohen, a law professor at Philadelphia’s Drexel University whose work focuses on constitutional law and abortion policy.
“They’re going to say what they’re doing is just criminalizing actions that take place completely within Idaho, but in practice what they’re criminalizing is the person helping the minor,” Cohen, who also litigates abortion-related cases with the Women’s Law Project nonprofit, told HuffPost.
State Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R), one of the sponsors of the abortion trafficking bill, said plainly that the intent of the legislation is to limit minors’ ability to travel out of state without parental consent.
“It’s already illegal to get an abortion here in the state of Idaho,” she told HuffPost. “So, it would be taking that child across the border, and if that happens without the permission of the parent, that’s where we’ll be able to hold accountable those that would subvert a parent’s right.”
In the past, a bill like this would have been brushed aside as political fodder, never to become law. But Idaho has seen a Christian white nationalist insurgency in recent years, helping to create a Legislature that’s quickly gone down the far-right rabbit hole — including by introducing legislation that would bring back firing squad executions, or make it a crime punishable by life in prison for a parent to get gender-affirming care for their transgender child.
More red states will pass legislation like this in the years ahead, and eventually, as I've been saying for nine months now, someone will pass a law making it a crime for anyone to cross a border to get an abortion. That's going to lead to a huge Supreme Court fight, probably in 2024, where the Roberts Court is going to uphold the law for a state, and several more of these laws will pass.
I guarantee you this is coming.
The only solution is to vote out Republicans.
You can complain about Dems all you want, but there's zero chance of national legislation fixing all this and fixing the Supreme Court as long as Republicans remain with enough power to block it.
I know people don't believe in voting our way out of this, but not doing so hands everything over to these bastards.