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Abortion Opponents Don't Want Patients Crossing State Lines

photo of abortion protest

June 30, 2022 – Several national anti-abortion advocacy groups and lawmakers in Republican-led states are pushing forward with plans to block people from crossing state lines to seek the procedure elsewhere.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, several states have enacted “trigger ban” laws to stop abortion, particularly across the Southeast and Midwest. As part of that, anti-abortion groups are building momentum around the idea of blocking out-of-state travel as well, even discussing it at two national anti-abortion conferences last weekend, according to The Washington Post.

“Just because you jump across a state line doesn’t mean your home state doesn’t have jurisdiction,” Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, told the newspaper.

“It’s not a free abortion card when you drive across the state line,” he said.

The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal organization, is drafting model legislation for state lawmakers to use, which would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident end a pregnancy outside of a state that has banned abortion. The draft language borrows from the recent Texas abortion ban, which allows private citizens to enforce the law through civil litigation.

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers, an anti-abortion organization led by Republican state legislators, has also begun working with the authors of the Texas abortion ban, the Post reported. The group is exploring model legislation that would restrict people from crossing state lines for abortions.

Relying on private citizens to enforce civil litigation, rather than imposing a state-enforced ban on crossing state lines, could make these laws more difficult to challenge in court.

What’s more, the legislation could have a chilling effect on doctors, who may stop performing abortions on people from other states while waiting on courts to intervene and overturn the laws, the newspaper reported.

Not every anti-abortion group is supporting the idea. Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said that people access medical procedures across state lines often.

“I don’t think you can prevent that,” she said.

But some states may still propose these types of bills this year. Legislators in Arkansas and South Dakota, for instance, have already planned special sessions to discuss abortion legislation, which could include the issue. Lawmakers in Missouri have also supported the idea.

In contrast, several Democrat-led states have passed legislation this year to counteract laws that may try to restrict movement across state lines, according to the Post. Connecticut passed a law that offers protection from out-of-state subpoenas issued in cases related to abortion procedures that are legal in the state, and California passed a similar law to protect abortion providers and patients from civil suits.

The Justice Department has warned that it will fight laws that block people from crossing state lines, saying they violate the right to interstate commerce.

“The Constitution continues to restrict states’ authority to ban reproductive services provided outside their borders,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement after last week’s ruling.

“We recognize that traveling to obtain reproductive care may not be feasible in many circumstances,” he said. “But under bedrock constitutional principles, women who reside in states that have banned access to comprehensive reproductive care must remain free to seek that care in states where it is legal.”

Show Sources

The Washington Post: “Antiabortion lawmakers want to block patients from crossing state lines.”

U.S. Department of Justice: “Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Statement on Supreme Court Ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.”

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