Planned Parenthood vows legal action against Idaho’s abortion trafficking bill if passed

Advocates expect Idaho Senate to approve bill this week

By: - March 30, 2023 4:15 am
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has said a state cannot bar a resident from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion because there is a constitutional right to interstate travel. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)

More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade allowing states to decide their own abortion laws and bans, the nation’s highest court could decide the future over a key abortion pill, mifepristone. (Photo by Astrid Riecken / Getty Images)

The leadership of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest says there will “absolutely be a legal battle” over a proposed new law that aims to restrict a minor’s ability to travel for abortion care if it is passed by the Idaho Senate this week.

House Bill 242, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, creates a new section of Idaho law that defines “abortion trafficking” as a crime when an adult helps a minor seek an abortion in another state or helps a minor obtain a medication that will induce an abortion. A prior version of the bill would have placed the section of code under Idaho’s existing human trafficking law, but the new version creates a separate section under Idaho’s abortion laws for the trafficking offense.

Those who would violate the new law are subject to two to five years in prison, according to the bill text.

Idaho’s abortion ban applies to any stage of pregnancy, with affirmative defenses for cases of rape and incest with an accompanying police report and if an abortion is necessary to save the pregnant person’s life.

Idaho is surrounded by several states where abortion is legal, including Washington, Oregon and Montana. Washington allows minors to obtain an abortion without parental permission, and Oregon requires parental consent for girls under the age of 14.

Ehardt has characterized the bill as one that preserves parental rights, because the bill would punish someone who helped a minor seek an abortion without parental permission.

“This gives us the tools to go after those who would subvert a parent’s right to be able to make those decisions in conjunction with their child,” Ehardt said at a committee hearing on the bill on Monday.

In addition, the bill gives Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador the authority and “sole discretion” to prosecute a person for violating any aspect of Idaho’s criminal abortion laws if the prosecuting attorney in the respective county refuses to bring charges.

It also includes a civil component that allows the family members of the person who sought an abortion to sue the medical professionals who provided it.

U.S. Supreme Court justice’s opinion on interstate travel cited

The bill already passed the Idaho House of Representatives on a nearly party-line, 57-12 vote in early March. It will likely have a final vote in the Senate before Friday, and abortion rights advocates expect it will have enough support to pass.

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, said her organization intends to challenge the bill if it becomes law, and cited U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s opinion in the decision overturning Roe v. Wade in her argument.

“There’s no way this bill is constitutional,” Gibron told States Newsroom. “Even (Kavanaugh) agrees that people have a right to interstate travel for abortion.”

Kavanaugh said in his concurring opinion that a state could not bar a resident from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion because there is a constitutional right to interstate travel.

Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, director of Idaho’s Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said several other organizations are contemplating joining a legal challenge to the law if it is passed. She said she is particularly bothered by the focus on young people, and so are those who have reached out to her to oppose the bill.

“I’ve been hearing from people who have young people in their lives who are really concerned about them, and worried about the increasing amount of hostility toward people with uteruses and toward other groups that have been historically marginalized and whether or not they’re going to be able to stay in Idaho,” DelliCarpini-Tolman said. “I’ve had a number of heartbreaking conversations with people just in the past week.”

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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.

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