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Idaho's 'abortion trafficking' law faces legal challenge

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On Tuesday, July 11, abortion advocacy groups in Washington and Oregon sued the state of Idaho.

They're fighting to overturn a recently enacted state law that makes it a crime to help a minor travel to get abortion or access abortion pills without parental consent.

Opponents call the Idaho law an “Abortion Travel Ban” and say it violates constitutional protections for free speech and interstate travel.

Idaho has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country.

Sarah Varney, a senior correspondent at KFF Health News, has been reporting on Idaho's restrictive abortion laws.

"The Supreme Court clarified that doctors couldn't be prosecuted for performing abortions in medical emergencies. But other than that, there's very few exceptions in Idaho law," Varney explained. "Earlier this year, the Legislature passed what was considered the first teen abortion travel ban in the country. And that went into effect on May 5."

This new criminal statute is called "Abortion Trafficking," and is punishable by a minimum of two years in prison. It forbids helping a person who is under 18 years old obtain abortion pills, or leave the state for abortion care without parental permission.

It also includes an "affirmative defense" for the parental permission.

"This means that maybe your sister asked you to take her daughter to Washington for an abortion," Varney explained. "Maybe you even have it in an email or you had a conversation about it, you could still be charged and have to go before a judge or jury and affirm your defense, meaning you have to prove that in fact, you were given permission by a parent."

There are three plaintiffs in this case, Northwest Abortion Access Fund, Indigenous Idaho Alliance, and Lourdes Matsumoto, who is an attorney that works with victims of domestic and sexual violence, including minors.

The three plaintiffs are represented by Seattle-based Legal Voice.

The lawsuit is making two claims: First, that the Idaho "teen travel ban" infringes on the right to interstate and intrastate travel, not just for the minors themselves, but actually for adults; Second, that it infringes on First Amendment rights.

"So the court has said, giving money is protected speech," Varney recalled. "So can I give money to someone who wants to get an abortion across state lines? Can I talk to them about it, if I'm working in a domestic violence shelter?"

You can listen to the entire conversation in the audio above.

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