Washington joins 19 other states urging court to block Idaho law
OLYMPIA — Today, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is leading a coalition of 20 attorneys general to file legal arguments in a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s restrictive law making it a crime for adults to help minors travel out-of-state for abortion care.
The challenge to Idaho’s so-called abortion “travel ban” was filed in U.S. District Court in Idaho earlier this month by an attorney working with sexual assault victims, the Northwest Abortion Access Fund and the Indigenous Idaho Alliance. Ferguson’s amicus brief urges the court to block Idaho’s law immediately.
“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.”
“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.”
In today’s amicus brief, Ferguson argues that Idaho’s law not only endangers minors from Idaho, it also punishes Washington’s and other states’ medical providers and residents for helping them access lawful abortion care outside of Idaho’s borders.
“This cannot be reconciled with Supreme Court precedent, under which States cannot prevent their residents from accessing abortion care in other states where it is legal — much less from even accessing information about such lawful care,” the brief asserts.
Further, Ferguson argues, Idaho should not be allowed to criminalize legal conduct in other states.
Idaho’s abortion laws, among the most restrictive in the country, have resulted in significant increases in Idaho patients coming to Washington for care. Washington clinics reported an unprecedented 75% increase in Idaho patients between January 2022 and early 2023. For example, Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Pullman reported that 62% of its patients were from Idaho in June 2022 — the same month the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The next month, Idahoans made up nearly 80% of its patients. Pullman is just eight miles from the Idaho border.
Other states bordering Idaho have seen similar increases in Idaho patients.
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.”
Deputy Solicitors General Cristina Sepe and Emma Grunberg, Assistant Attorneys General Sarah Smith and Alexia Diorio and Legal Assistant Stephanie Lindey developed the brief for Washington.
This is the third time Washington has weighed in on Idaho’s restrictive abortion laws. Last month, Washington led a coalition of 15 attorneys general to file a friend of the court brief supporting Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai‘i, Alaska, Indiana and Kentucky, challenging a law that had been interpreted to prohibit providers from making out-of-state referrals for abortion care. In August 2022, Washington joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general to file a friend of the court brief supporting the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit challenging another of Idaho’s restrictive laws.
If you have questions about your right to access abortion care in Washington, Ferguson has partnered with advocacy organizations and Washington law firms to make pro bono legal counsel available to abortion providers, individuals traveling to Washington for care and others seeking to understand their rights in Washington state. Help can be found at a new legal services website managed by the Lawyering Project — abortiondefensenetwork.org.
Anyone with complaints or concerns about violations of reproductive rights under state law is encouraged to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.
Washington’s efforts to protect reproductive freedom
Ferguson filed a lawsuit in February in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington accusing the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) of singling out the medication abortion drug mifepristone — one of the two drugs used for medication abortions — for excessively burdensome regulation, despite ample evidence that the drug is safer than Tylenol.
Less than two months later, a federal judge in Spokane barred the Food & Drug Administration from doing anything to reduce the availability of mifepristone in Washington, 16 other states and the District of Columbia that filed the lawsuit. That lawsuit is ongoing.
Also in February, Ferguson partnered with 21 other attorneys general to file a friend of the court brief in a separate case in federal court in Texas defending the FDA’s original approval of mifepristone. The case, filed in November 2022 by four doctors and several anti-abortion medical associations, seeks to overturn the FDA’s decades-old approval of the drug.
That same month, Ferguson joined 22 other attorneys general to urge CVS and Walgreens to continue with plans to dispense abortion pills, despite threats from states that have severely restricted abortion.
Last May, Ferguson sent a letter to the members of the Washington Medical Commission, the Washington State Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, the Washington State Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission, and the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission asking the boards to exercise discretion when licensing out-of-state medical providers who have been penalized for providing abortion services criminalized in other states.
Ferguson has also produced a “know your rights” brochure and a specific form for Washingtonians to file complaints about violations to their reproductive rights. The brochure, available on the Attorney General’s website, is a guide to Washington state law’s protections for abortion and contraception access.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org
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