On Thursday, the Republican legislature in Idaho sent a bill to Republican Gov. Brad Little’s desk that would make it illegal to assist a child in obtaining an abortion without parental consent. This legislation would set a precedent in the United States.
The bill aims to limit freedom of movement by making it illegal for an adult to get “abortion trafficking” for a minor or to “recruit, harboring or transport the pregnant minor” without the minor’s parent’s or guardian’s permission.
Offenders face two to five years in prison and the possibility of being sued by the minor’s legal guardian or parent if found guilty. Although parents who have suffered a rape cannot file a lawsuit, those who aid a minor in obtaining an abortion face criminal charges.
To avoid infringing a right to travel between states, Idaho’s law would only criminalize the time spent in Idaho on the way to an abortion provider located elsewhere. The governor has five days from the time a bill reaches his desk to sign it, reject it, or allow it to take effect without his signature.
Little is pro-choice and has backed abortion restrictions in Idaho. If the bill is passed into law, opponents have threatened legal action. “Whether it comes from us or one of our coalition partners, there will be a legal challenge,” Mack Smith, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said.
According to reports on CBSNews.com,
“We definitely will be fighting this with everything that we’ve got. There is just absolutely no way that this is constitutional.”
Idaho is one of only a handful of states with laws punishing individuals who aid persons of any age obtain abortions, and one of 13 that virtually restrict abortion at all stages of pregnancy.
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Democratic Senator Melissa Wintrow expressed concern that the bill would “further bind young girls that need help” and hurt those who would try to assist them during the debate on Thursday morning.
“I think we all know that Idaho has the strictest abortion bans in the country,” Wintrow said. “It is criminal, it is totally banned, and this bill adds insult to injury in my estimation.”
But, Republican co-sponsor Sen. Todd Lakey argued that the law will “help protect our kids” by preventing and protecting against abortions, particularly those that take place without parental consent in another state.
The bill would allow the attorney general to file criminal charges in the event that a county prosecutor, who would typically handle criminal cases, does not. Abortion traffickers may not be exonerated by proving that a parent gave permission for a minor to travel.
A bill that would criminalize helping minors obtain an abortion without parental consent won final passage in Idaho's legislature and is headed to the desk of Republican Gov. Brad Little. https://t.co/ioPOxp1oHc
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) March 31, 2023
They could instead use it as an “affirmative defense,” trying to show the court that the youngsters’ legal guardians approved the scheme. Democrat Representative Chris Mathias has pointed out that rape and incest rates in Idaho are at a “five-year high,” and that many of the victims are children who have been abused by their parents.
Compared to the previous year, reports of rape or attempted rape increased by roughly 12% in 2021, while the number of reported incest incidents increased from three in 2020 to 28 in 2021. Even if one parent is “potentially a felonious, incestuous, rapist father.”
Mathias said both parents must be notified of any plans to take a youngster out of state for an abortion. Democratic Senator James Ruchti expressed concerns that the law would be difficult to implement. He used the hypothetical example of a state trying to prevent its citizens from buying firearms in Idaho.
“It’s probably why we let federal laws handle these things when it comes to crossing borders,” Ruchti said.
West Coast governors have marketed their states as “safe havens” for abortions, and lawmakers in Oregon and Washington are exploring legislation to protect abortion providers and patients from criminal prosecution.
The law in Oregon would make it legal for doctors to perform abortions on anyone, regardless of age, and would prohibit them from informing parents in some circumstances.
The anti-abortion group National Right to Life applauded the legislation because it would keep parents involved in their children’s decision-making processes, so protecting parental rights.
“Parents have the right to love their daughter and be there for her in her time of need,” National Right to Life president Carol Tobias wrote in a news release. “No one should take that away.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights through research, 36 states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion, while most allow exceptions under certain conditions, such as a medical emergency.
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