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Idaho lawmakers pass a bill to prevent minors from leaving the state for abortion

Pro-abortion rights advocates march in Boise, Idaho following the publication of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn <em>Roe v. Wade</em> in May 2022.
James Dawson
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Boise State Public Radio
Pro-abortion rights advocates march in Boise, Idaho following the publication of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade in May 2022.

BOISE, Idaho – After clearing both legislative chambers, Idaho could become the first state in the country, according to Planned Parenthood, to criminally charge those who help pregnant minors get an abortion across state lines without parental consent.

If convicted, the penalty could be two to five years in prison under the bill passed by the Idaho Senate Thursday.

Neighboring Oregon, Montana, Washington and Wyoming currently allow abortions with varying levels of restrictions.

Republican State Sen. Scott Herndon supported the bill, but wanted it to go further.

"Neither a parent nor a guardian should be allowed protection from trafficking a minor for purposes of an abortion outside the state," Herndon said Thursday.

Supporters call the potential crime "abortion trafficking" – something Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow, a Democrat who has worked with sexual assault survivors for decades, said cheapens the experience of human trafficking victims forced into slavery or prostitution.

Wintrow said it also doesn't account for minors who were raped and became pregnant by their fathers who aren't able to safely tell law enforcement.

"It is unnecessary and unneeded and further shackles young girls who are in trouble," Wintrow said, adding, "and then it harms the parents' friends, the relatives, etc., who are trying to help her."

Republican state Sen. Todd Lakey is one of the prime sponsors of a bill that would criminally charge anyone who helps a pregnant minor get an abortion outside of Idaho without parental permission.
James Dawson / Boise State Public Radio
/
Boise State Public Radio
Republican state Sen. Todd Lakey is one of the prime sponsors of a bill that would criminally charge anyone who helps a pregnant minor get an abortion outside of Idaho without parental permission.

Idaho already has some of the strictest abortion laws

Idaho only allows the procedure to be performed in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother would die without one.

Thursday, legislators clarified certain instances when a mother's life is in jeopardy, but that change still needs approval from Republican Gov. Brad Little.

State law also allows family members and the father of an aborted fetus to file civil lawsuits against doctors who perform an abortion outside of those exceptions — for $20,000 per violation.

Currently, rapists can't sue, but a Senate amendment to the so-called "trafficking" bill would delete that part of the code and allow rapists to bring a civil case.

House lawmakers agreed to that change Thursday afternoon.

Opponents questioned the legality of the legislation since federal law regulates interstate travel. Republican Sen. Todd Lakey rejects that, saying the crime takes place in Idaho when a person conceals a trip to an abortion clinic from a parent.

"We have the authority and the obligation and the opportunity to establish criminal laws in Idaho, and to take those acts in Idaho. That's what we're saying is a crime," Lakey said.

The bill now goes to Gov. Brad Little's desk for consideration.

Should it become law, Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, told the Idaho Capital Sun this week the organization intends to challenge it.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio News

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James Dawson joined Boise State Public Radio as the organization's News Director in 2017. He oversees the station's award-winning news department. Most recently, he covered state politics and government for Delaware Public Media since the station first began broadcasting in 2012 as the country's newest NPR affiliate. Those reports spanned two governors, three sessions of the Delaware General Assembly, and three consequential elections. His work has been featured on All Things Considered and NPR's newscast division. An Idaho native from north of the time zone bridge, James previously served as the public affairs reporter and interim news director for the commercial radio network Inland Northwest Broadcasting. His reporting experience included state and local government, arts and culture, crime, and agriculture. He's a proud University of Idaho graduate with a bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. When he's not in the office, you can find James fly fishing, buffing up on his photography or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.
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