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First of a Kind Idaho Abortion Trafficking Law – What the Law Does and Does Not Do

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Editor’s Note: The law was subsequently challenged in court, as was to be expected. This was originally published in Sebastian’s Point by the Society of St. Sebastian.

On 5 April 2023, Governor Little of Idaho enacted legislation designed to protect minor girls in the state of Idaho. The provisions of HB 242 make it unlawful for an adult to transport a pregnant minor within the state of Idaho for the purpose of obtaining an abortion with the intention of concealing the abortion from the parents or guardian of the minor. The legislation came into force on 5 May 2023.

The state of Idaho has enacted legislation that makes the trafficking of minors for the purpose of procuring an abortion a criminal offence.

The Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision in the summer of 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the abortion issue to Congress and state legislatures. In the wake of the landmark decision, the National Right to Life Committee crafted a comprehensive model legislation, noting that the abortion industry would likely attempt to exploit existing state telehealth laws and the proximity of states with less protective laws to circumvent pro-life laws in a particular state. It is therefore necessary to enact legislation that will prevent the exploitation of telehealth laws for the purpose of unlawful abortions and to introduce new legislation that will prevent the trafficking of minors for the purpose of unlawful abortions.

For those engaged in the drafting of protective pro-life legislation, the dissemination of misinformation about the actual impact of state or federal abortion laws is a common occurrence. It is worth noting that the headlines surrounding the recently enacted law in Idaho (HB 242) were particularly egregious in misrepresenting the state law and its actual impact.

Two sample headlines surrounding HB 242 included one from NBC News, which read, “Idaho becomes one of the most extreme anti-abortion states with a law restricting travel for abortions.”[2] Another from the Huffington Post read, “Idaho Passes Law to Restrict Interstate Travel for Abortion Care for Minors.”[3]

The headlines in question are misleading in a number of ways. It is inaccurate to suggest that adults or minors are prohibited from travelling out of Idaho for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. Although it is accurate to state that Idaho protects the unborn child throughout gestation within its state, there is no prohibition on an adult travelling for an abortion, nor on a minor travelling alone. However, it is illegal for an adult to transport her within Idaho state lines if the intention is to conceal it from her parents.

In a concurring opinion in the Dobbs case, Justice Brett Kavanaugh addressed the issue of interstate travel. He posed the question, “May a state bar a resident of that state from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion?” In my view, the answer is in the negative, based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.

David Crary of the Associated Press provided an accurate account of the Idaho bill, stating that the legislation “safeguards the constitutional right to travel between states” by “making illegal only the in-state segment of a trip to an out-of-state abortion provider.”[6]

The unambiguous language of the bill does not address the issue of crossing state lines. Furthermore, the legislation does not prohibit a minor from crossing state lines independently. The legislation simply prohibits an adult from transporting a minor within Idaho with the intention of obtaining an abortion and concealing it from her parents. Furthermore, the legislation prohibits an adult from aiding and abetting the commission of an illegal abortion within the state. This could be achieved, for instance, by procuring and providing the woman with chemical abortion drugs within the state.

Moreover, neither this specific legislation nor the pro-life movement is designed to penalize women or girls. It is evident that neither the Idaho law nor any other proposed piece of legislation is attempting to punish or prevent a woman or minor from travelling.

In May of 2022, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, more than 70 state, national, and international pro-life organisations collectively urged legislators to promote legislation that does not seek to criminalise women and that is otherwise supportive of life-affirming measures. The letter, which was signed by numerous representatives of these organisations, can be found here.

As national and state pro-life organizations representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women and children across the country, we want to be clear: We unequivocally state that we do not support any measure that seeks to criminalize or punish women, and we strongly oppose the inclusion of such penalties in legislation.

We are America’s leading pro-lifers. We come from very different backgrounds and perspectives, but we are united in our mission to protect unborn children and American women from the greed of the abortion industry. We have been fighting this battle for decades – many of us have dedicated our lives to this cause. We understand better than anyone the desire to punish abortionists who act with callous disregard for the sanctity of human life. But criminalising women who have abortions is not the way to do it.

The Idaho law is not intended to punish women or prohibit travel. The legislation is designed to prevent the concealment of a potentially life-altering and serious abortion procedure from the parents of a minor girl.

This significant piece of legislation in Idaho aims to build upon the long-standing and legally permissible ability of states (even in the context of Roe v. Wade) to involve parents in the care of their children. The majority of parental involvement laws stipulate that abortionists must either notify, or obtain consent, or both notify and obtain consent, from a parent or guardian before a minor girl undergoes an abortion.

The evidence continues to demonstrate the positive impact of these laws in reducing the rates of abortion, birth, and pregnancy among minors. According to figures from the CDC, the proportion of teenagers accounting for abortions in the U.S. has been on a downward trend.

In the earliest days of legal nationwide abortion, approximately one-third of those seeking abortions were teenagers. In contrast, in 2020, females aged 19 and under represented only 8.5% of the abortions reported to the CDC.

The observed decline in abortion, abortion rates, and ratios provides evidence that pro-life policies and legislation are effective in reducing the number of abortions performed. This suggests that fewer women are viewing abortion as a solution to their problems. The particular and significant decline among teenagers is indicative of the efficacy of parental involvement legislation.

In signing this legislation into law, Governor Little is protecting minor girls from those who would deny them the counsel of their parents. The proposed legislation, HB 242, would seek to prevent an abortion, whether surgical or procured using abortion drugs, from being performed on a minor without the knowledge of her parents or guardians. Parents have long been recognized as having the right to be involved in decisions regarding their child’s well-being. HB 242 seeks to protect that right.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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