Some GOP legislators want to ban out-of-state abortions, too

Some GOP legislators want to ban out-of-state abortions, too

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When Texas began implementing its controversial abortion ban, it seemed inevitable that many Texans — at least those who could afford it — would have no choice but to go to other states to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

That is, of course, precisely what happened. Axios reported this week, “Newly released data shows that Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas’ surrounding states saw a nearly 800% increase in abortion patients from Texas between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021.”

This is entirely in line with what the national landscape is likely to look like if Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices overturn Roe v. Wade: Many of those seeking abortions will have to go — or at least try to go — to states where reproductive rights are protected.

For some, this apparently isn’t good enough. The Washington Post reported this week:

[A] prominent antiabortion lawmaker in Missouri, from where thousands of residents have traveled to next-door Illinois to receive abortions since Missouri passed one of the country’s strictest abortion laws in 2019, believes she has found a solution. An unusual new provision, introduced by state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R), would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident obtain an abortion out of state, using the novel legal strategy behind the restrictive law in Texas that since September has banned abortions in that state after six weeks of pregnancy.

As regular readers may recall, what made Texas’ system so unusual was the extent to which Republican policymakers effectively created a vigilante system: If some random person learns that a Texan had an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women even know they are pregnant — he could file suit against the physician who performed the procedure. And the nurse who was in the room. And the friend who drove the woman to the health clinic. And the family member who gave the woman some money to help pay for the trip.

According to the Lone Star State’s abortion ban, a random person, effectively deputized by Texas Republicans, could sue any of these people for $10,000 — plus attorneys’ fees — turning anti-abortion activists into bounty hunters.

A Republican in Missouri wants to add to this list: If you were to help a Missouri woman get an abortion in some other state, under state Rep. Coleman’s plan, random citizens could sue you, too.

This is almost certainly unconstitutional — Missouri isn’t supposed to pass laws that punish what happens in Illinois — but Republicans in the Show Me State might pass it anyway and take their chances in the courts.

What’s more, others in the GOP are eager to apply similar principles to other issues. NBC News reported this week on the Idaho state House passing legislation to make it a crime punishable by life in prison for a parent to seek out gender-affirming health care for their transgender child.

The bill is among 29 pieces of Republican-backed legislation nationwide proposed so far this year to curtail health care for transgender youth, and it coincides with dozens of additional bills seeking to limit what can be discussed about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools and restrict transgender athletes in school sports. But LGBTQ advocates and legal experts say the Idaho proposal differs by criminalizing cases of transgender children traveling to other states to obtain certain medical procedures.

The report added that under the Idaho proposal, parents that travel with their child to another state for the purpose of obtaining gender-affirming health care could be charged with a felony.

If the measure is signed into law, litigation is inevitable.

Disclosure: Anytime I mention Planned Parenthood, I try to remind readers that my wife works for the organization, though she played no role in this report.

Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”

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