Home Health Law The Constitutionality of Banning Interstate Journey for Abortion

The Constitutionality of Banning Interstate Journey for Abortion

The Constitutionality of Banning Interstate Journey for Abortion


By Hannah Rahim

After the Supreme Court docket eradicated the constitutionally protected proper to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Girls’s Well being Group, right-wing states have begun enacting abortion bans and discussing the potential of proscribing interstate journey for abortion.

Though there’s a normal presumption in opposition to a state’s means to control extraterritorially (i.e., past its borders), authorized authority means that the Structure doesn’t clearly prohibit a state from regulating abortion journey.

Rising curiosity in abortion journey bans

Interstate journey can play a key position in increasing or proscribing abortion entry and due to this fact has garnered growing consideration following the Dobbs resolution.

In 2021, Missouri lawmakers tried to incorporate in an abortion invoice a provision that will have made it illegal for somebody to help a Missouri resident to acquire an out-of-state abortion. In 2022, Republicans blocked a Senate invoice, Freedom to Journey for Well being Care Act of 2022, which had been launched by Democrats to ensure freedom to interstate journey for abortion. In April 2023, Idaho grew to become the primary state to explicitly prohibit interstate journey for abortion by passing laws that made it a prison offense to assist a pregnant minor to acquire an abortion.

Authorized students have argued that a number of clauses of the U.S. Structure prohibit a state’s means to prescribe laws extraterritorially and thus might be used to problem abortion journey bans. The Dormant Commerce Clause and Privileges and Immunities Clause are two such clauses that shall be explored right here.

The Dormant Commerce Clause

The Dormant Commerce Clause will not be an precise clause of the Structure however fairly a limitation on state motion implied by the Commerce Clause that denies states the facility to burden interstate commerce. Extraterritorial regulation of abortion journey might be challenged beneath the Dormant Commerce Clause as burdening commerce in two methods: it limits abortion, and it limits journey. Abortion as a type of medical care is commerce as a result of it includes the supply of providers for cost. Journey has an necessary position in commerce, thus burdening interstate journey burdens interstate commerce.

Nevertheless, circumstances which have been struck down by the Court docket for violating the Dormant Commerce Clause all utilized to noncitizens of the regulating state, whereas for abortion journey bans, states can be banning their very own residents from touring. That abortion bans have an effect on residents of the regulating state makes it extra doubtless that these bans can be permissible, as a result of a state might assert that it has jurisdiction to control the conduct of its personal residents. One other significant distinction between abortion journey bans and Dormant Commerce Clause precedent is that almost all statutes struck down beneath the Dormant Commerce Clause aimed to guard financial pursuits, whereas abortion bans might be framed as defending well being. The court docket makes use of a stricter customary of evaluate for statutes defending native financial pursuits in comparison with these selling well being and security and due to this fact could also be extra more likely to uphold abortion journey bans.

Along with stopping burdens on interstate commerce, the Dormant Commerce Clause was thought to incorporate a separate extraterritoriality element that forestalls states from regulating commerce that takes place “wholly exterior of the state’s borders, whether or not or not commerce has results throughout the state.” Nevertheless, this extraterritoriality rule was asserted by petitioners within the latest case Nationwide Pork Producers Council v. Ross, and the Court docket responded that the Dormant Commerce Clause precedent “reveals nothing like” an “nearly per se rule” in opposition to extraterritoriality. Due to this fact, extraterritoriality alone will doubtless not be sufficient to strike down an abortion ban beneath the Dormant Commerce Clause.

The Privileges and Immunities Clause  

The Privileges and Immunities Clause prohibits states from making or implementing legal guidelines that abridge privileges of U.S. residents, together with the proper to journey. Bans on abortion journey might be challenged as violating this protected proper to journey. However counting on the proper to journey when difficult abortion journey bans is problematic as a result of the state will not be truly stopping anybody from leaving its borders – simply requiring that, when touring interstate, one should nonetheless abide by the house state’s restrictions on abortion.

One other problem with counting on the Privileges and Immunities Clause to safeguard abortion journey is that the clause supplies minimal protections in opposition to a state’s effort to control the journey of its personal residents. Authorized circumstances regarding the Privileges and Immunities Clause concentrate on legal guidelines enacted by the vacation spot state, fairly than the house state of the vacationers.

Additional, the proper to journey will not be absolute. As an illustration, Jones v. Helms upheld a state statute that made it a prison offense for a dad or mum to willfully abandon their dependent baby and depart the state. The Court docket reasoned {that a} restriction on journey that’s “rationally associated to the offense itself…have to be throughout the state’s energy.” Touring for an abortion is “rationally associated” to the abortion itself, due to this fact Jones means that states have the energy to restrict abortion journey.


Authorized precedent surrounding the Dormant Commerce Clause and Privileges and Immunities Clause means that neither clause clearly prohibits the extraterritorial regulation of abortion journey. Different constitutional provisions which may function grounds to problem abortion journey bans, such because the Due Course of and Full Religion and Credit score Clauses, arguably are inclined to related points.

Recognizing the dearth of constitutional protections for abortion journey is necessary when contemplating authorized and advocacy methods to protect people’ freedom to journey throughout state strains to hunt an abortion. As an illustration, there are highly effective normative causes for prohibiting states from banning abortion journey, similar to selling equity and nationwide unity by guaranteeing sure rights for all residents and upholding state sovereignty. Given the restricted constitutional protections for residents’ rights to journey for abortion, emphasizing normative over constitutional concerns could also be an efficient technique for policymakers and advocates.



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