Colorado challenges Idaho law banning travel for abortions

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The law in Idaho makes it a crime for adults to help minors travel to places like Colorado to have an abortion.

DENVER — Colorado can only become a haven for people seeking abortions if other states don’t limit who can travel here.

In the year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, the state has passed its own laws protecting the right to abortion. But other states have passed laws, too.

Idaho now makes it a crime for adults to help minors travel to places like Colorado to have an abortion. 

“What Idaho is trying to do is extend its reach beyond the borders of Idaho,” said Dani Newsum, who works with the reproductive rights advocacy organization Cobalt. 

Someone who helped a minor travel to Colorado to have a legal abortion could then go home to Idaho and be arrested.

“This is a consequence that they should’ve foreseen,” said Newsum. “Along comes Dobbs out of the State of Mississippi and you have the Supreme County saying, no, the protections from Roe no longer exist, and the decisions about the legality of abortion is up to each individual state.”

The new Idaho law is now being challenged in federal court with Colorado Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser signing onto a brief in a lawsuit that asks the judge, in part, to consider a person’s right to travel as the reason Idaho’s rule is unconstitutional.

“The idea that states will try to restrict the interstate right to travel to harm individuals goes against the very nature of our constitutional regime,” Weiser told 9NEWS. 

Weiser looks to marijuana as an example. While weed is legal here, it’s illegal in places like Nebraska, for example. Yet, people from Nebraska can travel here and get high if they so choose. The new Idaho law prevents people from even traveling to Colorado to take advantage of a service that’s legal here, but illegal elsewhere.

“This Idaho law and others like it pose a direct threat to Colorado’s commitment to being a state where anyone can access legal and safe abortion care,” said Weiser. “The reality is we’re in a state of uncertainty right now. The Dobbs decision raised a series of questions some of which may not be answered for years.”

The challenge to the Idaho state law is not about whether or not Idaho is allowed to outlaw abortion. The Hobbs decision made clear that they are. What’s being discussed here is whether they can limit interstate travel. 

Medical professionals in Colorado administered more than 14,000 abortions in 2022. That’s the most since 1985. Nearly 30% of those were performed on people who traveled here from out of state. That’s a sharp rise from every other year.

More people are coming to Colorado to have abortions. States like Idaho want to stop that in a world where state laws rule what people can and cannot do when it comes to abortion.

“Colorado’s law does not trump in this case Idaho’s, but Idaho’s does not supersede Colorado’s,” said Newsum. 

Attorneys general in several other states, like Washington, Oregon and Illinois, also signed onto the brief.

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