This State Is Banning Interstate Travel for Abortion by Calling it ‘Abortion Trafficking’

If adults help minors cross state lines without their parents’ consent, they’re guilty of the newly-invented crime and face years in prison.
Brad Little, Governor of Idaho speaks at CPAC in Washington, DC conference at Gaylord National Harbor Resort & Convention. (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Republican governor of Idaho, Brad Little, signed a bill on Wednesday that makes it illegal for adults to help minors get abortions without their parents’ consent—and makes Idaho the first state in the country to pass a ban on interstate travel for abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.

Almost all abortions are already banned in Idaho, but this first-of-its-kind law makes it a crime to help minors access abortion pills or leave Idaho for legal abortions in other states. Washington and Oregon, two of Idaho’s neighbors, have far more liberal abortion laws.


If adults help minors cross state lines without their parents’ consent, they are guilty of the new crime of “abortion trafficking” and face two to five years in prison. They could also be sued by the minor’s parent or guardian. The law is set to take effect in 30 days.

“This legislation is despicable, and we’re going to do everything in our power to stop it,” 

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates-West tweeted Wednesday. “They’re using an incredibly serious term like trafficking to talk about young people traveling with trusted adults to access a legal procedure in another state.”

“While most young people include their parents in the decision to get an abortion, some are in dangerous, abusive situations,” the group added. 

In a letter Wednesday, Little pushed back against the idea that the law bans interstate travel for abortion. Instead, he said, it only stops unemancipated minors from “being taken across state lines without the knowledge and consent of her parent or guardian.” 

One family law attorney has cautioned Little that, because the bill doesn’t define who qualifies as a “parent,” it could lead to “legal chaos,” the Seattle Times reported. A parent who doesn’t have custody of their child could, for example, block them from getting an abortion, even if a parent who does have custody wants to allow it.


Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe, anti-abortion activists publicly floated the idea of trying to ban people from crossing state lines for abortions, which they call “abortion tourism.” But even some abortion foes have questioned if pursuing that policy will set the movement back. “There is a constitutional right to travel,” Steve Aden, chief legal officer for Americans United For Life, told VICE News last year.

Separately on Wednesday, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest sued Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador after Labrador issued a legal opinion that seeks to block Idaho providers from referring people for out-of-state abortions. That opinion threatens providers’ rights to free speech, the lawsuit alleges.

Idaho is already seeing the consequences of its politicians’ crackdown. Last month, one hospital announced that it would discontinue labor and delivery services because too many doctors are leaving the hospital. They were departing, the hospital said in a news release, because of “Idaho’s legal and political climate.”

“The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,” the hospital said.

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