Washington attorney general challenges Idaho ban on helping minors travel for abortion
Nineteen state attorneys general joined Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit aimed at stopping the Idaho ban.
On Aug. 1, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the attorneys general of 19 other states filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit challenging an Idaho law that criminalizes assisting minors in traveling out of state for abortion care.
“I am convinced that anti-abortion activists will literally stop at nothing until they remove every last vestige of reproductive freedom across our country,” Ferguson told the American Independent Foundation.
The Idaho law, signed April 5 by Republican Gov. Brad Little, states, “An adult who, with the intent to conceal an abortion from the parents or guardian of a pregnant, unemancipated minor, either procures an abortion … or obtains an abortion-inducing drug for the pregnant minor to use for an abortion by recruiting, harboring, or transporting the pregnant minor within this state commits the crime of abortion trafficking.” Breaking the law is a felony punishable by from three to five years behind bars.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho by Lourdes Matsumoto, a Boise-based attorney who often works with victims of domestic and sexual violence; the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, an abortion fund serving Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska; and the Indigenous Idaho Alliance, an advocacy group focusing on education, wellness, cultural awareness and support for the Indigenous community in Idaho.
Ferguson’s amicus brief, which was joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia, argues that Idaho’s travel ban “threatens to punish medical providers and residents” and puts minors in danger, “leading to increased health risks, illness, and death.”
In its introduction, the brief states that Idaho’s law “cannot be reconciled with Supreme Court precedent, under which States cannot prevent their residents from accessing abortion care in other states where it is legal—much less from even accessing information about such lawful care.”
“One is free in our country to travel for health care. It’s actually fairly straightforward,” Ferguson said. “So Idaho cannot dictate to an individual in their state where they go to receive lawful health care. … It’s breathtaking that one of the 50 states is literally trying to say that their residents cannot travel to another state to seek health care that is legal in that state.”
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, patients living in Idaho and other states with abortion bans have been forced to travel elsewhere for abortion care. A press release issued by Ferguson’s office on Aug. 1 noted:
Washington clinics reported an unprecedented 75% increase in Idaho patients between January 2022 and early 2023. For example, Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Pullman reported that 62% of its patients were from Idaho in June 2022 — the same month the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The next month, Idahoans made up nearly 80% of its patients. Pullman is just eight miles from the Idaho border.
“My job as attorney general of Washington state is to make sure that providers here in my state that provide health care that is legal in Washington state are not sanctioned by a radical prosecutor in a neighboring state,” Ferguson said.
He noted: “If Idaho is successful in having this law declared constitutional, does that sort of set other states following their lead, so to speak? … Yes, I think the short answer is yes, which is part of the reason why we are leading a coalition of states in filing this brief in opposition to the law. That is due in part because of concerns that we have of other states following Idaho if they’re allowed to go forward. … We’re engaged in this case because it could have ramifications beyond the borders of Idaho.”
A report issued by the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project on July 18 shows how officials and prosecutors in states with abortion bans can use data from smartphones, automated license plate readers, street cameras, Internet searches, and apps such as Uber and Lyft to track those seeking to obtain abortion care.
In response to threats that health data could potentially be used against patients, Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee in April signed the My Health, My Data Act, which requires companies to get consent from users before they collect or share health data with outside sources.
“The majority of Americans want to have the full range of reproductive freedoms available to them. That is where the American people are. Our U.S. Supreme Court is out of step with the majority of Americans,” Ferguson said.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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