Idaho law that would criminalize assisting minors with abortions goes to the governor’s desk

A bill that would criminalize assisting minors to have an abortion without parental consent won the final passage in Idaho’s Legislature on Thursday and will be brought before Republican Gov. Brad Little’s desk.

The measure would be the first of its kind in the United States. It aims to restrict travel by creating the crime of “abortion trafficking” and would prevent adults from obtaining abortion pills for a minor or “recruiting, harboring or transporting the pregnant minor” without the consent of the Parents or legal guardians of the minor.

Anyone convicted of breaking the law faces two to five years in prison and could also be sued by the minor’s parent or guardian. Parents who raped their child would not be able to sue, although criminal penalties would remain in place for anyone who assisted the minor to have an abortion.


To avoid violating a constitutional right to travel between states, Idaho law would only make the instate portion of a trip to an outstate abortion provider illegal.

Once it lands on his desk, the governor has five days to either sign the law into law or veto it, or let it go into effect without his signature. Little is anti-abortion and has supported Idaho’s strict bans on abortion.

Opponents promise litigation if the bill becomes law.

“Whether it comes from us or one of our coalition partners, there will be a legal challenge,” said Mack Smith, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “We will definitely fight this with everything we have. There is simply absolutely no way that this is constitutional.”

Idaho is one of 13 states that already effectively ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy, and is one of a handful of states that already have laws penalizing those who assist people of all ages to have abortions.

Boise, Idaho, residents demonstrate for abortion rights at a Planned Parenthood rally on May 14, 2022. However, the Idaho legislature on Thursday approved a measure that would prohibit adults from aborting minors without parental consent. (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman via AP, file)

During Thursday morning’s Senate debate, Democratic Senator Melissa Wintrow said the legislation “further ties up young girls who need help” and hurts those who try to help them.

“I think we all know that Idaho has the toughest abortion ban in the country,” Wintrow said. “It’s criminal, it’s totally illegal, and this bill adds insult to injury in my estimation.”

But Sen. Todd Lakey, a Republican and a fellow supporter of the law, said it will “help protect our children.”

The law would give the Attorney General the power to prosecute people for breaking the law if the District Attorney, who normally handles criminal cases, refuses to bring charges.


People accused of abortion trafficking could not necessarily avoid charges by showing that the minor’s parents consented to the trip. Instead, they could use this information as an “affirmative defense,” attempting to prove in court that the minor’s parents or legal guardians signed the plan.

Rep. Chris Mathias, a Democrat, noted that rape and incest rates in Idaho are at a “five-year high” and many of those victims are minors who have been victimized by a parent. The Idaho State Police’s annual Crime in Idaho report showed a nearly 12% increase in reports of rape or attempted rape in 2021 compared to the previous year, as well as 28 cases of reported incest – compared to three incest reports in 2020 and 14 in year 2019

The bill requires both parents to be notified of a plan to take a minor out of state for an abortion, Mathias said, even if one of the parents is “a potential felonious, incestuous, rapist father.”

Democratic Senator James Ruchti said the legislation will likely be difficult to enforce. He compared it to a hypothetical scenario in which a neighboring state might try to prevent its own residents from traveling to Idaho to buy a gun.


“That’s probably why we leave these things to federal law when crossing the border,” Ruchti said.

Heads of state in Washington, Oregon and California have promoted the West Coast as a safe haven for abortion procedures, and lawmakers in Oregon and Washington are considering bills to protect abortion providers and patients from criminal liability. Oregon’s bill would allow doctors to abort anyone, regardless of age, and in certain cases would prohibit them from sharing that information with parents.

National Right to Life, an anti-abortion organization, hailed the bill as protecting parental rights by allowing parents to be involved in a child’s decisions.

“Parents have the right to love their daughter and to be there for her in time of need,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias wrote in a press release. “No one should take that away.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that advocates for abortion rights, 36 states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion, although most allow exceptions in certain circumstances, such as medical emergencies.

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