Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed a first-of-its-kind law that explicitly criminalizes people who assist minors access abortion care out of state without parental consent. The law also makes it a crime for an adult to provide abortion medication to a minor without parental consent.

Other states have attempted to restrict traveling across state lines for abortion care, but Idaho is the first to target helping minors. Little signed House Bill 242 on April 5 and the law goes into effect May 5.  Idaho’s governor also signed House Bill 71 into law this month that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth and makes it a felony for doctors to provide gender-affirming care to minors. That law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

Idaho already has an abortion ban in place with very limited exceptions. Under House Bill 242, it’s illegal for an adult to help a minor cross state lines or provide them with abortion medication, even in the event of rape or incest. 

Under Idaho’s new law, a person convicted of breaking the law would face up to five years in prison and could be sued by the minor’s partner, parent or guardian, and other family members. The legislation grants the attorney general the ability to prosecute if local prosecutors decline to press charges. 

The bill text refers to “recruiting, harboring, or transporting the pregnant minor” as “abortion trafficking.” To avoid violating the constitutional right to travel between states, Idaho’s law criminalizes the in-state portion of an out-of-state trip to an abortion provider. Activists say the law’s language diminishes the term human trafficking—which happens without consent and through, fraud, force, or deception—and overrules the bodily autonomy of young people by forcing them to obtain parental  consent. 

The law also puts young pregnant people at risk who may not have a traditional parental support system. 

“Many teenagers are not comfortable sharing with their own parents that they are pregnant,” said Kimra Luna, an organizer and founder of the Boise, Idaho-based mutual aid collective Idaho Abortion Rights. The collective provides free emergency contraceptives and condoms at distribution boxes around the state and information about abortion.

A 2020 study published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health found that minors obtain abortion care without parental consent out of fear of violence, abandonment, or being forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy. These circumstances inflame the potential for Idaho’s law to exacerbate dangers for young people. 

“Young people have always been sidelined from full equal access to reproductive care and this law is just another major barrier in a long line of barriers that efface young people,” said attorney Rebecca Wang, legal support counsel at the reproductive justice legal group  If/When/How

Even before Roe v. Wade was overturned, 36 states had parental involvement laws, which fall under two categories: requiring parental consent or parental notification before a minor’s abortion. These laws often force young people to undergo the judicial bypass process, which requires going to court to ask a judge for permission to access abortion care. 

“The immediate implications are contributing to an already existing atmosphere of fear and confusion about what the law is, who could potentially be prosecuted or criminally punished for supporting an abortion, seeking an abortion, etc.,” Wang said. 

Young people will feel the effects of the legislation immediately, Wang said.

“We’re going to see trusted adults in a young person’s life being unable or unwilling and uncertain about being able to offer assistance to that young person, just because they’re afraid that they’re going to get in trouble,” she said.

In order for the law to be enforced, it relies on a young person’s network to report, which Wang says creates a “network of distrust.”

““It’s perfectly possible to travel across state without documenting that or having to inform anybody … The power of laws like this are to scare people and break apart our community trust,” Wang said.

Planned Parenthood will take legal action against Idaho’s new law. Wang said other states could use the legislation as a blueprint to restrict travel for abortions in spite of legal challenges.

Traveling across state lines for care

For people seeking care before 12 weeks gestation, the average one-way driving distance to an abortion clinic is 222 miles. The driving distance increases later in pregnancy. In nearby Washington state, parental involvement is not required for an abortion. There is no law in Oregon that specifically requires minors to notify or get consent from a parent to get an abortion. However, Oregon law does require anyone under the age of 15 to obtain consent from a parent for any type of medical treatment in Oregon. This means that those under the age of 15 will need to obtain parental consent to access abortion care in the state. In states where minors do not need parental involvement, their decisions and care are confidential. 

In Washington, the governor is expected to sign a shield law protecting people traveling into the state from prosecution in their home states. California has a similar law.

“Oregon is pretty clear that nobody can be prosecuted under Oregon law for seeking services there. But Oregon is a little bit less clear about what might happen in the home state,” Wang said. 

Resources for young people in Idaho

Wang said that since the law is confusing for both young people and adults, it can be helpful to know what options are still available. 

“It is not at all illegal for them to seek information about abortion,” Wang said. “It is not at all illegal for them to travel out of the state for abortion care. It is not at all illegal for a parent or legal guardian to help a young person leave the state for abortion care. All of those are still accessible avenues.”

Wang said that people can contact If/When/How’s free resource, the Repro Legal Helpline, for information about navigating the law. 

“We can talk them through exactly what the law is, and help them find resources to help them get where they’re going,” Wang said. 

For those considering self-managed abortion, contacting the hotline can help clarify potential legal risks.

Resources for young people seeking care in Idaho include Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho and websites such as I Need An A and Plan C Pills. For young people who are traveling for care and need help covering costs, the National Network of Abortion Funds offers funding and logistical aid. 

Xenia Ellenbogen (she/they) is a freelance reproductive rights and mental health writer. She focuses on reproductive health and justice, LGBTQIA+ issues, menstrual equity, and trauma. She has a BA in writing...