Idaho Republican pitches jail time for ‘trafficking’ a minor to get an abortion

Darin Oswald/

People who travel with a minor to another state for an abortion, or help a minor obtain an abortion-inducing drug, would face at least two years in prison under a new Idaho bill.

The legislation, from Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, would update Idaho’s anti-human trafficking code to include “recruiting, harboring, or transporting a pregnant minor with the intent” to procure an abortion, or an abortion-inducing drug, without their guardian’s knowledge.

“It is something that, unfortunately, is happening, and I don’t think any of us want to see our minors not only trafficked but in this situation,” Ehardt told the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. “We will make sure that we have top-notch legal authority to deal with this.”

Under Idaho law, human trafficking is defined as recruiting, harboring or transporting people and forcing them to engage in commercial sex acts or labor. Conviction of human trafficking carries a maximum 25-year prison sentence. Ehardt’s bill would add the abortion provision with a two- to five-year sentence.

More than a dozen states enacted abortion bans after last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision eliminating federal protection for the procedure. Idaho bans all abortions with limited legal defenses.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has moved to expand abortion access, including by eliminating restrictions on mail-order abortion-inducing drugs and which pharmacies can prescribe them.

Last week, congressional Democrats introduced legislation to protect the right to travel across state lines to obtain an abortion. The U.S. House, which is now controlled by Republicans, passed the bill last year, but it stalled in the Senate.

A ‘cruel’ proposal, abortion rights advocates say

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, a nonprofit that advocates for abortion rights, called Ehardt’s legislation “cruel.”

A news release from the group said a pregnant person who is denied a wanted abortion is more likely to face poverty and complications with the pregnancy. The person is also more likely to continue an abusive relationship, the release said.

“All Idahoans should be paying attention to this extreme attempt at government overreach to control our movements in and out of the state of Idaho,” Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai‘i, Indiana, Kentucky, said in the release.

The House State Affairs Committee voted Tuesday to introduce the bill. It’s likely to return to the committee for a public hearing in the coming days or weeks.