The Idaho state legislature has forwarded an anti-abortion proposal that would criminalize the transportation of minors to other states for abortion services.
House Bill 242 creates a brand new crime — abortion trafficking — that is defined as the transportation of an Idaho-based minor to another state for an abortion without their parents’ or guardians’ consent. The bill would make so-called abortion trafficking a felony offense that is punishable by two to five years in prison.
The bill was passed earlier this month in the state House of Representatives, and was forwarded this week to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is expected to pass. Pending any amendments, the bill would then advance to Gov. Brad Little (R), who has consistently backed anti-abortion measures in the state and is likely to sign the bill into law.
If the bill becomes law, Idaho would become the first state in the country to criminalize people who help a minor cross state lines to get an abortion.
“This is the first of what will probably be many states that pass provisions like this because it does seem to be something that the [anti-abortion rights] movement wants, at least for minors,” Drexel University law professor David Cohen told HuffPost. “Whether they expand it to adults, too, we will see. But at least for minors, this seems to be part of the blueprint. And Idaho is now the first state that’s putting it into reality.”
Idaho has a near-total abortion ban, making exceptions only when a person’s life is endangered due to their pregnancy or in cases of rape or incest. The law requires sexual assault victims seeking an abortion to provide documentation that they were raped to their physicians, a process that can be traumatizing or prevent them from qualifying for the procedure altogether.
Rep. Barbara Erhardt (R), the sponsor of the “abortion trafficking” ban, has claimed that the proposal is about “parental rights” — a right-wing talking point that has been used to justify, among other things, banning books about civil rights in classrooms, allowing teachers to hit disabled students, and attempts to force teachers to out trans children to their parents.
Abortion advocates have noted that the bill will likely force minors, especially those living in abusive homes, to remain pregnant and give birth against their will.
“For young children living in abusive households, disclosing sexual activity or pregnancy can trigger physical or emotional abuse, including direct physical or sexual violence, or being thrown out of the home,” said Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, the Idaho State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.
“Imagine this: Your daughter’s friend is raped by her own father,” Slate senior writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on Twitter. “She gets pregnant. You drive her to Oregon to get a medication abortion. Under this act, you are now subject to prosecution for ‘abortion trafficking’ and face up to five years in prison.”
Idaho state Rep. Lauren Necochea (D) discussed similar scenarios in a debate on the House floor last month.
“There are cases where a minor might not feel safe telling their parents they need abortion care. It could be an abusive family situation,” she said. “It could be any number of circumstances that make it feel unsafe for a 17-year-old to go to her parents, but maybe she has a big sister who can help her out.”
Under the proposal, any family member or trusted friend who helps a minor obtain abortion care in another state would be subject to prosecution, Necochea noted.
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