AG Ferguson files brief challenging Idaho’s abortion travel ban

Aug 1, 2023, 11:47 AM

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Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson at a press conference in 2017 (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is leading a coalition of 20 attorneys general to file legal arguments in a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s travel ban making it a crime for adults to help minors travel out-of-state for abortion care.

The lawsuit filed by two advocacy groups and an attorney who works with sexual assault victims is suing the state of Idaho, claiming that the state violates their First Amendment right to discuss abortion with minors and their Fourth Amendment right to travel freely between states.

Doctors performing gender-affirming treatment, abortions on minors protected in WA

Ferguson filed an amicus brief, a document submitted to the court by a party not involved in the case offering information, expertise, or insight, arguing that the “travel ban” is unconstitutional. The Constitution provides some protections to citizens for the freedom of movement between states under the Privileges and Immunities Clause.

“The Constitution protects the individual right to travel between states, and Idaho’s radical Legislature cannot abolish that right,” Ferguson said. “Washington is standing up for the Constitution and reproductive freedom to support this challenge to Idaho’s unconstitutional abortion travel ban.”

This brief comes as the number of patients traveling into Washington from Idaho for abortions has risen drastically. According to Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, the number of abortion patients traveling from neighboring Idaho has risen by 56%.

Dr. Mollie Nisen, a Washington State family physician and abortion provider, said that these patients are making long trips for a relatively simple procedure.

“People coming from as far as a seven-hour plane ride to get a five-minute procedure is what we’re looking at right now,” Nisen said.

Most of the clinics that have seen an increase are located in eastern and central Washington. One Planned Parenthood clinic in Sunnyside saw just one abortion patient between January and May of 2022. In that same period of 2023, they had 23.

“Washington vigorously supports those challenging Idaho’s patently cruel and unconstitutional law restricting travel for abortions,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “This law places Idahoan youth in grave danger and unlawfully infringes on every person’s First Amendment rights to free speech and to travel freely between states’ borders. As I said in my April 4 letter to Gov. Little when he signed this repugnant law, we will continue to harbor and comfort all Idahoans who seek health care services that are denied to them in Idaho.”

Inslee also claims that Idaho’s law also harms the ability of states like Washington to provide timely medical care. In a letter to Idaho’s governor in April, Gov. Inslee warned that Idaho’s law would likely result in an “increased mortality rate of Idahoan women and girls.”

Washington attorney general joins coalition challenging Idaho’s near-total abortion ban

Ferguson has previously joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general in filing a brief in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit challenging Idaho’s new abortion law in August of last year.

Ferguson’s office hopes the brief will help convince the Idaho judge to temporarily suspend the law through an injunction.

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AG Ferguson files brief challenging Idaho’s abortion travel ban