Reproductive justice advocates allege that police in Idaho have made the first “abortion trafficking” arrest after an Idaho teenager and his mother were charged with “kidnapping” for bringing the teen’s girlfriend out of state for an abortion.
The 15-year-old who had an out-of-state abortion, identified in court records as K.B., was living in Idaho with her boyfriend and his mother when she became pregnant. In May, the same month Idaho’s “abortion trafficking” law went into effect, her boyfriend and his mother brought her to Oregon to obtain abortion medication.
K.B.’s mother reported to the police that K.B. was taken out of state to obtain an abortion without parental consent, sparking a police investigation. Police charged K.B.’s boyfriend and his mother with multiple charges, including felony kidnapping. While the two were not specifically charged under the abortion trafficking law, reproductive justice activist and writer Jessica Valenti noted that “prosecutors used the exact language of the trafficking law in the kidnapping charge.”
The abortion trafficking law is currently being challenged in court, which may be why the prosecutors in this case decided to charge the two with felony kidnapping, instead of under the abortion trafficking law. Advocates believe that these charges are being used as a “test case” for the controversial statute.
“It’s actually a pretty slick move, allowing prosecutors to charge the two with abortion trafficking without citing the statute specifically in case it gets blocked,” Valenti said.
Idaho’s abortion trafficking law criminalizes the act of transportation of an Idaho-based minor to another state for an abortion without their parents’ or guardians’ consent. Doing so is a felony offense punishable by two to five years in prison.
“Giving them [minors] money, giving them a ride, helping them organize the visit to a doctor out of state — all of the activity that’s required to help a young person leave the state — any of that would be punishable,” said Elisabeth Smith, director of U.S. state policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Idaho’s travel ban was based on a model bill drafted by anti-abortion group the National Right to Life, and is designed to undermine the implied constitutional protections for interstate travel.
“This is one of the next frontiers of abortion litigation,” David S. Cohen, a constitutional law professor at Drexel University, told KFF Health News. “They’re clearly pushing this kind of law with other states.”
In response to the potential criminalization of people from states with abortion bans seeking abortions out of state, states like Washington, Colorado, and Oregon have enacted shield laws, barring law enforcement from cooperating with other states’ abortion investigations. However, police in this case were able to circumvent Oregon’s shield law by using geo-location data to place the teenager at an Oregon abortion clinic.
“Ever since the reversal of Roe we have been saying that surveillance built on corporate data harvesting is how draconian anti-abortion laws will be enforced,” digital activism nonprofit Fight for the Future said on social media. “Since more laws like the one in Idaho are being passed it’s important to lift up this story.”
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