Idaho Governor Signs Unprecedented Out-of-State Abortion Travel Ban, Calling It ‘Trafficking’

The new law allows the AG's office to enforce its felony and civil penalties in case a local prosecutor has more pressing matters to prosecute.

Idaho Governor Signs Unprecedented Out-of-State Abortion Travel Ban, Calling It ‘Trafficking’
Idaho Gov. Brad Little claps delivers his 2023 State of the State address held at the Idaho State Capitol, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Boise, Idaho.
Photo:Kyle Green (AP)

Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signed a bill that created a brand new abortion crime called “abortion trafficking” on Wednesday afternoon. The bill bans assisting a minor in accessing abortion care (including abortion pills) with the intent of keeping the procedure a secret from their parents. It’s Little’s latest move to further crush the ability of his constituents to access live-saving healthcare.

“For too long now Idaho lawmakers have slipped under the radar with some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country. Now, they are using an incredibly serious term like trafficking to talk about young people traveling with trusted adults to access a legal procedure in another state. It’s despicable,” Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, Idaho state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, told Jezebel in a statement. “This law should serve as a warning to everyone living in states with lawmakers that are hostile to this critical health care procedure: this could be coming to your state, too.”

The governor defended the newest law in his notification letter to the Idaho state House Speaker Mike Moyle on Wednesay, saying it only applies to minors, as if they aren’t entitled to medical privacy and autonomy.

The new law has a carve-out for the AG’s office to enforce its felony and civil penalties in case a local prosecutor thinks they have more pressing matters to prosecute, such as murder.

Local physicians and Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Indiana, Kentucky (PPGNHAIK) sued Wednesday to stop enforcement by Raúl Labrador, the state’s anti-abortion attorney general. Last month, Labrador issued a legal opinion that interprets Idaho’s abortion ban to prohibit providers from referring patients out of state for abortion care.

The plaintiffs call this a “gross overreach” that stops them from giving the full slate of medical options to patients. “The opinion issued by Attorney General Labrador is blatantly unconstitutional and a dangerous threat to pregnant people in Idaho and the healthcare providers who they rely on,” Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told Jezebel. “The opinion essentially puts a state-mandated muzzle on healthcare providers, stopping them from giving patients important and potentially life-saving information about where to get the medical care they need. This brazen attack on the reproductive freedom of Idahoans will not stand.”

It’s been more a year since Little and his allies in the state legislature banned just about all abortions in Idaho, putting it at the center of national legal battles around the procedure. In August, the Department of Justice sued the Gem State to block the “near-absolute ban.” The federal government argues that hospitals that receive federal money (such as the 43 Idaho hospitals that bill Medicare) are required to treat patients who show up at a hospital emergency room, even if that treatment is an abortion, due to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

“In some circumstances, medical care that a state may characterize as an ‘abortion’ is necessary emergency stabilizing care that hospitals are required to provide under EMTALA,” the lawsuit reads. “Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to, ectopic pregnancy, severe preeclampsia, or a pregnancy complication threatening septic infection or hemorrhage.”

In short, Idaho’s governor would apparently rather spend state dollars defending anti-abortion laws that allow people to make decisions for their own bodies.

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