Idaho criminalizes helping minors to obtain abortions
(CN) — Idaho became one of the most restrictive U.S. states for access to reproductive services after Governor Bradley Little signed a new bill making it illegal for adults to assist minors in obtaining an abortion in any capacity without parental consent.
Passed with a 27-7 vote with an emergency clause in the Idaho Senate on March 30, takes effect 30 days after Little’s signing.
House Bill 242 — also called the “abortion trafficking” law — makes it illegal for any adult to assist a minor in obtaining abortion medication or a lawful abortion out of state without their parent’s consent. Currently, all forms of abortion are illegal in Idaho as of August 2022, via a trigger law that took effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
State Representative Barbara Erhardt, a Republican from Idaho Falls, proposed the bill as a “parental rights” bill. As reported by KMVT in March, Erhardt told Idaho’s legislative committee that, under the current Idaho law, it’s perfectly legal for a parent to take their pregnant minor across state lines to receive an abortion. The purpose of HB242, Erhardt said, is to punish those who do so without a parent’s consent and to protect minors in abusive relationships or from pressure to receive abortions.
Under the bill, anyone found guilty of assisting minors without their parent’s or guardian’s consent will face two to five years in prison and can be sued by the minor’s legal guardians, except when the minor is impregnated by their own parents — although even then the criminal charges for assisting an abortion apply. If a county prosecutor declines to file a criminal case against an adult, the Idaho attorney general will prosecute in their place.
Governor Little’s signing on Wednesday came at the same time a lawsuit was filed against Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador over a similar matter. Planned Parenthood Northwest and two medical doctors claim Labrador’s recent interpretation of Idaho’s statewide ban on abortion amounts to a threat against medical providers both inside and outside of Idaho and violates their First Amendment right to free speech.
Labrador's legal opinion came at the request of state Representative Brent Crane, a Republican from Nampa. Labrador asserted Idaho’s ban not only criminalizes abortion within the state but also prohibited an Idaho medical provider from referring a woman across state lines to access abortion services. He said violations would result in the suspension of a provider’s health care license.
Planned Parenthood says Labrador’s interpretation not only threatens medical providers’ freedom of speech but violates due process and the commerce clause by criminalizing lawful abortion care provided outside the state.
"As the Supreme Court has made clear, '[t]o punish a person because he has done what the law plainly allows him to do is a due process violation of the most basic sort," the plaintiffs say in the complaint, citing the Supreme Court's decision in BMW of N.A. v. Gore.
“The same is true for Labrador’s threat of licensing sanctions against Idaho health care professionals who ‘assist’ Idaho residents in obtaining such an out-of-state abortion by, for example, providing information or referrals,” the plaintiffs continue. “The attorney general’s interpretation of the total abortion ban violates fundamental principles of due process and must be declared unlawful.”
The bill Little signed may face similar scrutiny in terms of prosecuting adults for aiding minors in finding lawful care outside of the state. However, The Associated Press reported the law only criminalizes travel within Idaho to an out-of-state abortion provider to avoid running afoul of the constitutional right to interstate travel.
“Banning abortion wasn’t enough for these anti-abortion zealots. They will stop at nothing to control what we do and where we go — even if it means holding people hostage when trying to access essential health services," Planned Parenthood Federation of America president and CEO Alexis McGill said in a statement Wednesday. Young people seeking abortion deserve our compassion and support, not the extreme government overreach this law sanctions.”
She added: “Make no mistake: HB242 will have a chilling effect on those who would help minors access critical abortion care, putting young people in dangerous and isolating situations. We know these extreme attacks will continue and Planned Parenthood will never stop fighting for everyone’s ability to control their own lives, bodies, and futures.”
The attorney general’s office did not respond for comment regarding pending litigation with Planned Parenthood.