Idaho bill would ban minors from travel for abortions without parental consent

FILE PHOTO: The two American towns separated by a state border and policy, as federal court decision on abortion looms
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By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) -Helping a minor cross state lines to terminate a pregnancy without her parents' consent would become a crime punishable by up to five years in prison under a bill passed Thursday by Idaho's Republican-dominated legislature.

The bill would also allow a man who impregnates a woman - including rapists - as well as other family members to sue abortion providers.

If signed by Republican Governor Brad Little, the legislation would be the first of its kind in the country, according to the abortion provider Planned Parenthood, which has said it would challenge the ban in court.

State Representative Barbara Ehardt, a Republican sponsor of the bill, said at a committee hearing this week that the bill "gives us the tools to go after those who would subvert a parent's right to be able to make those decisions in conjunction with their child," according to the Idaho Capital Sun.

Idaho already bans almost all abortions, but the state borders Washington, Oregon and Montana, which allow them. Conservative states with abortion bans have wrestled with ways to keep women and girls from obtaining abortions in more liberal states, many of which have increased the availability of services in order to accommodate such travel.

"It's incredibly extreme," said Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, Idaho State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. "The Idaho legislature is essentially inventing a new crime that they are dubbing 'abortion trafficking.'"

DelliCarpini-Tolman said her organization is trying to mount a campaign to persuade Little to veto the bill, but she thinks he is likely to sign it. A number of pro-abortion rights groups are weighing a legal challenge to the measure if it becomes law, and she expects a lawsuit to be announced soon after that happens.

Under the bill, adults who help girls obtain surgical or medication abortions without parental consent would face a minimum of two years in prison if convicted.

The bill also sets up a mechanism by which family members of the fetus can sue providers for up to $20,000 for performing an abortion. The bill initially excluded cases where the pregnancy was the result of rape, but was later amended to remove that language.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Josie Kao)