- Republican state lawmakers are going after abortion “trafficking” in an effort to stop abortion advocates from evading state bans around the country and protect pregnant minors.
- Idaho, Texas and now Tennessee have all pushed legislation on the issue and Republican state Rep. Jason Zachary of Tennessee told the Daily Caller News Foundation that his bill was personal after he had been “directly involved” with a family whose 14-year-old daughter had been taken away to get an abortion without their knowledge.
- “It should be the easiest thing in the world to say it’s unacceptable for an adult to take somebody else’s kid anywhere without their parents knowing,” Katie Daniels, state policy director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told the DCNF.
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, Republican state lawmakers have proposed a variety of pro-life laws, with three states placing a new focus on abortion “trafficking.”
Following the Dobbs decision, Idaho became the first state in 2023 to pass a bill enforcing criminal penalties for individuals “trafficking” a minor to another state to get an abortion and since then, Texas and Tennessee have followed suit on both the state and local levels. Republican state Rep. Jason Zachary of Tennessee told the Daily Caller News Foundation that he introduced his bill Monday after having been involved in a situation where a 14-year-old girl was taken without her parents’ knowledge to get an abortion last year.
“A young girl, a 14-year-old girl in East Tennessee, unbeknownst to her guardian was taken to West Tennessee and was not notified until the child was taken to West Tennessee. The child called the parents and said, ‘I’m in West Tennessee and I’m being taken to get an abortion.’ I was on the phone with the dad and the mom, [who were] crying asking me what I can do to help stop it. There was nothing I could do,” Zachary told the DCNF.
Zachary’s bill would make it a “criminal offense” for anyone other than a parent or guardian to take a minor out of Tennessee for an abortion and also “provide for a civil action against a person committing the offense of abortion trafficking of a minor for the wrongful death of an unborn child that was aborted,” according to the text. If passed a minor could not travel with someone other than their legal guardian to get a chemical or surgical abortion.
Texas has taken a slightly different approach than Idaho or Tennessee as multiple city councils have established new ordinances barring its citizens from being transported on their state highways to get an abortion, according to the Texas Tribune. The city council in Amarillo, Texas, is one of the latest to consider a travel ban but postponed any vote during a meeting on Dec. 19 for further review.
If passed, Amarillo’s ordinance would allow private citizens to sue anyone who “aids and abet[s]” someone to get an abortion using the highways, according to the Texas Tribune. Similar measures have been proposed in other counties, such as Lubbock, Llano, Odessa, Dallas and San Antonio, according to The Washington Post.
Some city council members have expressed concerns that the ordinances and their framing may be too extreme, according to the Post.
“I hate abortion. I’m a Jesus lover like all of you in here,” Llano councilwoman Laura Almond said during a meeting in August, according to the Post. She explained that in college she had once picked up a friend from an abortion clinic and that the law would have put her at risk of a lawsuit despite her personal beliefs on the subject.
Republicans have struggled on the issue of abortion over the last several elections due to poor messaging and a divided base regarding how strong candidates should be on pro-life issues. With the presidential election coming up in November, Katie Daniels, state policy director for Susan B. Anthony (SBA) Pro-Life America, told the DCNF that it will be important for Republican candidates endorsing any kind of abortion legislation, including anti-trafficking measures, to “talk about what they are for” and not just what they are against.
“It should be the easiest thing in the world to say it’s unacceptable for an adult to take somebody else’s kid anywhere without their parents knowing, let alone to another state for a medical procedure that’s illegal in their state. That should be a real point of consensus, regardless of political party,” Daniels said. “Beyond that, candidates should be talking about what they’re for. They’re for resources being available to women and their children, they’re for the pregnancy centers that help these women and they are for the life of both the mom and her baby.”
Daniels argued polling had found that “two-thirds of Americans” support parental notification and consent before minors can get a chemical abortion through the mail and a Rasmussen poll from July 2022 found that 64% of Americans support parental notification before a child gets an abortion.
“This is a very common sense position if you ask normal people. It’s politicians who are tied up to the industry that seem to have trouble with it,” Daniels told the DCNF.
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