No, Idaho Doesn’t Ban Pregnant Women From Traveling; It Protects Babies From Abortion

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 31, 2023   |   5:27PM   |   Boise, Idaho

Pro-abortion activists are spreading blatantly false and alarmist claims this week about a new Idaho law that protects underage girls from abuse and unborn babies from abortion.

The law, signed by Gov. Brad Little in April, prevents underage girls from being taken across state lines for abortions without their parents’ consent. Pro-life advocates say the legislation protects young victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse by ensuring that their parents are involved if they want to abort their unborn baby.

But lies about the pro-life law resurfaced on Twitter this week, with some absurdly claiming Idaho bans all pregnant women from traveling across state lines. The lies came from prominent individuals, too, even though the root of the claim appears to be a parody account.

“We’ve now reached the pregnant women can’t leave the state phase of the GOP’s War on Women,” Kurt Bardella, a Democrat strategist and Los Angeles Times contributor, wrote on Twitter, linking to an article about the law.

Other individuals posted similar claims, including Harvard Law School professor emeritus Laurence Tribe. Interestingly, Tribe appeared to have based his claim, at least in part, on a tweet from a parody account that says it takes “great delight trolling” Republicans. Others shared the parody account’s claim, too, thinking it true.

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“Idaho Governor Brad Little has signed legislation that will prevent pregnant women from crossing state lines. Next up, women’s menstrual cycles will be monitored & public. Contraceptives including provolactics banned. Failure to have a child by 19 will be a felony,” the parody account wrote.

Tribe linked to a tweet that shared the parody account’s post in his comment blasting the law. He wrote: “All these sick measures obviously violate the right to interstate travel as even the Kavanaugh concurrence in Dobbs made clear, but it’s tragic that we’d need to reach to so disembodied a right in order to protect the core right to bodily integrity and equal personal autonomy.”

Tribe was referring to a concurring opinion by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in Dobbs: “May a state bar a resident of that state from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion? In my view, the answer is no based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.”

But the Idaho law does not ban interstate travel any more than kidnapping laws do. Rather, it protects young girls from being taken, potentially by force or coercion, to another state to have her unborn baby aborted without her parents’ knowledge or consent. Abusers and human traffickers often rely on abortion to cover up their crimes.

To protect young girls and their babies, the Idaho law creates a crime called “abortion trafficking,” which bans 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 minor. Because Idaho protects unborn babies by banning elective abortions, the only way an underage girl could get a legal abortion would be to be taken to another state.

Anyone found guilty of trafficking a teenager for an out-of-state abortion would face up to five years in prison.

Jennifer Popik, J.D., federal legislative director at National Right to Life, explained more about the law in a recent article at the Society of St. Sebastian:

The plain language of the bill says nothing about crossing state lines. Nor does it prevent a minor herself from crossing a state line. It simply prevents an adult from transporting a minor within Idaho for the purpose of obtaining an abortion with the intent to conceal it from her parents. The law also prevents an adult from assisting in procuring an illegal abortion within the state, for example, by obtaining and providing her with chemical abortion drugs within the state.

Further, neither this particular law nor the pro-life movement is attempting to punish a woman or girl. Neither the Idaho law nor any other proposed piece of legislation is attempting to punish or prevent a woman or minor themselves from traveling.

Notably, Twitter did post a “Community Note” on some of the tweets to correct the misinformation. The note tells readers: “A pregnant adult in Idaho can, of course, cross state lines. It’s illegal for an adult who’s NOT a parent to help a minor get an abortion or travel out of state for an abortion WITHOUT their parent’s consent.” It also links to an Associated Press article about the law.

But lies about pro-life laws abound post-Roe v. Wade, and traditional news outlets and fact checkers have shown little interest in correcting them.