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Idaho governor signs legislation making it a crime to help minors travel for abortions without parental consent

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Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday signed into law a bill that makes it a crime for adults to help minors travel to other states for abortion care without parental consent.

State House Bill 242 bans adults from "recruiting, harboring, or transporting" pregnant minors for abortions without parental consent, noting that such activity would still be illegal even if the abortion itself is provided out of state. The bill also criminalizes helping a minor obtain abortion medication without the consent of a parent or guardian. Both activities are considered "abortion trafficking" under the new law.

A conviction for abortion trafficking comes with a minimum sentence of two years in state prison, and a maximum sentence of five years.

In a letter to the speaker of the state House confirming the signing, Little said House Bill 242 "seeks only to prevent unemancipated minor girls from being taken across state lines for an abortion without the knowledge and consent of her parent or guardian."

Idaho already has a near-total ban on abortion that was enacted as a trigger law following the Supreme Court decision in July 2022 to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Biden administration has filed a closely-watched lawsuit against Idaho over its ban.

The newly signed HB 242 would give the attorney general the authority to prosecute people for violating the law if the county prosecutor, who would normally handle criminal cases, declines to press charges.

Last week, opponents said they would bring a legal battle once HB 242 becomes law.

"Whether it comes from us or one of our coalition partners, there will be a legal challenge," Mack Smith, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said. "We definitely will be fighting this with everything that we've got. There is just absolutely no way that this is constitutional."

During a state Senate debate last week, Democratic state Sen. Melissa Wintrow said the legislation "further shackles young girls that need help," and harms those who try to help them.

"I think we all know that Idaho has the strictest abortion bans in the country," Wintrow said. "It is criminal, it is totally banned, and this bill adds insult to injury in my estimation."

But Sen. Todd Lakey, a Republican and a co-sponsor of the bill, said it will "help protect our kids. It does help prevent and protect against abortion, especially those that occur without consent of a parent in another state."

People accused of abortion trafficking wouldn't necessarily be able to avoid charges by showing that the minor's parent approved of the travel. Instead, they would be able to use that information as an "affirmative defense" by attempting to prove in court that the minors' parents or guardians signed off on the plan.

State leaders 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 shield abortion providers and patients from criminal liability. Oregon's bill would allow physicians to provide abortion to anyone regardless of age and would bar them in certain cases from disclosing that information to parents.

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