August 2, 2023

NM joins in amicus on lawsuit over Idaho law banning abortion information

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general who filed an amicus brief on Tuesday in support of a lawsuit against the state of Idaho due to a state law aimed at curbing efforts to help Idaho minors who seek an out-of-state abortion.

The Idaho law could have repercussions for individuals in other states, such as New Mexico, where abortion is legal and safe. New Mexico has no barriers for minors who are 14 years old or older to receive abortion care.

The amicus brief cites the danger that some minors face if they must seek parental consent for an abortion. Advocates of abortion care call parental consent TRAP laws [Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers] which are intended to place barriers in the way of care. 

But Idaho has enacted a law that would criminalize individuals in other states where abortion is legal if those individuals help an Idaho minor seek an abortion. The brief states that the Idaho law, “purports to criminalize adults—including residents of Amici States—who “recruit,” “harbor,” or “transport” minors to receive care that is legal in other states.”

Idaho Governor Brad Little signed the “abortion trafficking” law which makes it illegal to either obtain abortion pills for a minor or to help them leave the state for an abortion without their parents’ knowledge and consent, Torrez’s spokesperson Lauren Rodriguez said in an email.

A group of advocates, including an Idaho-based Indigenous abortion fund that helps minors seeking abortions out of state, filed the lawsuit, Matsumoto v. Labrador, earlier this month. They are asking the federal district court in Idaho to rule the state law unconstitutional.

New Mexico enacted a shield law this year; it went into effect on June 16. The law protects reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare providers and patients from other states or groups that seek to obtain information about individuals who travel to New Mexico for abortion care or for gender affirming care.

But, the amicus brief says its signees are concerned that Idaho’s law will have a chilling effect on individuals as well as providers who are located in other states where abortion is legal out of fear of prosecution by the state of Idaho.

The brief also states that the 20 attorneys general are concerned about cases where individuals from states such as New Mexico who might travel to Idaho and find that they need urgent reproductive healthcare.

States where abortion is legal also have a financial interest in asking the court for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction while the lawsuit goes through the court.

“…as providers of health insurance for state employees and their children who may be temporarily visiting or residing in Idaho, amici states have a direct financial interest in preventing increased risk to patients and increased costs of medical care from undue delays or impeded continuity of care,” the brief states.

The brief cites the effects the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, has had on states where abortion has remained legal. So far this year, New Mexico abortion clinics have provided nearly 5,300 abortions and provided more than 11,000 abortions in 2022. But in 2021, abortion clinics provided close to 4,900 abortions – a number that was likely higher than normal since Texas enacted its six-week abortion ban in September 2021.

The brief says that Idaho cannot criminalize the dissemination of information about abortion care in states where it is legal. Further, the brief states that the Dobbs decision intended for individual states to decide the legality of abortion care within their own states. 

“…Justice Kavanaugh indicated in Dobbs, a state cannot bar one of its residents from “traveling to another State to obtain an abortion”—and the question is “not especially difficult as a constitutional matter,” Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion. 

The amici states, which includes states as far away as Connecticut and New York, say in the brief that they are already overwhelmed by abortion care patients traveling from states such as Idaho where abortion is now restricted or banned.

“As many states across the country have implemented severe restrictions on accessing healthcare services, New Mexico has remained a safe haven for reproductive rights, for our citizens and for all those seeking access to essential and safe reproductive healthcare,” Torrez said through the press release. “I will continue to safeguard a woman’s bodily autonomy and join with others that protect these rights across the country.”