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Federal judge puts Idaho abortion travel ban on hold

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Eric Tegethoff

(Northern Rockies News Service) A federal judge has temporarily blocked an anti-abortion law in Idaho restricting people's ability to travel to other states for the procedure.

During the 2023 legislative session, state lawmakers passed a law restricting "abortion trafficking," which it describes as an adult bringing a child across state lines for an abortion with the intent to conceal it from the child's parents or guardians.

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Kelly O'Neill, staff attorney for the nonprofit Legal Voice, said a U.S. district court judge agreed to their preliminary injunction request, blocking the law while the case is decided.

"The judge agreed that the law is unconstitutional and that it violates First Amendment freedoms, the right to interstate travel, and that it's unconstitutionally vague and that it's confusing," O'Neill outlined. "A person can't determine what conduct is legal and what might land you in prison for a minimum of two years."

Idaho has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, with the procedure banned in nearly every instance. While abortions have decreased in the state, research shows they've increased in neighboring states where it is protected since Roe v. Wade was overturned, such as in Washington.

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O'Neill noted Idaho is not the only state where lawmakers are attempting to restrict abortion.

"There's a huge wave of anti-abortion laws coming out of Idaho in particular and every state in the nation," O'Neill pointed out. "People are working and doing their part to try to push back against those and restore options of choices and freedom, and this is certainly a way that we're helping to do that."

The suit challenging the Idaho law was filed in July. The parties involved gave oral arguments in September.