Antiabortion lawmakers want to block patients from crossing state lines

Some advocacy groups and their allies are crafting legislative language that could be adopted in Republican-led state capitals.

Antiabortion supporters celebrate outside the Supreme Court after it issued a ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade, on June 24. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
7 min

Several national antiabortion groups and their allies in Republican-led state legislatures are advancing plans to stop people in states where abortion is banned from seeking the procedure elsewhere, according to people involved in the discussions.


The idea has gained momentum in some corners of the antiabortion movement in the days since the Supreme Court struck down its 49-year-old precedent protecting abortion rights nationwide, triggering abortion bans across much of the Southeast and Midwest.

The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal organization, is drafting model legislation for state lawmakers that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident of a state that has banned abortion from terminating a pregnancy outside of that state. The draft language will borrow from the novel legal strategy behind a Texas abortion ban enacted last year in which private citizens were empowered to enforce the law through civil litigation.


The subject was much discussed at two national antiabortion conferences last weekend, with several lawmakers interested in introducing these kinds of bills in their own states.

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers, an antiabortion organization led by Republican state legislators, has begun working with the authors of the Texas abortion ban to explore model legislation that would restrict people from crossing state lines for abortions, said Texas state representative Tom Oliverson (R), the charter chair of the group’s national legislative council.

“Just because you jump across a state line doesn’t mean your home state doesn’t have jurisdiction,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society. “It’s not a free abortion card when you drive across the state line.”


The Biden Justice Department has already warned states that it would fight such laws, saying they violate the right to interstate commerce.

Roe’s gone. Now antiabortion lawmakers want more.

In relying on private citizens to enforce civil litigation, rather than attempting to impose a state-enforced ban on receiving abortions across state lines, such a law is more difficult to challenge in court because abortion rights groups don’t have a clear person to sue.

Like the Texas abortion ban, the proposal itself could have a chilling effect, where doctors in surrounding states stop performing abortions before courts have an opportunity to intervene, worried that they may face lawsuits if they violate the law.


Not every antiabortion group is on board with the idea.

Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, noted that people access medical procedures across state lines all the time.


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

While some antiabortion groups aspire to push Congress to pass a national abortion ban, restricting movement across state lines would represent another step in limiting the number of abortions performed in the United States.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, left, and state House Speaker Matthew Shepherd watch as state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge signs the official certification to prohibit abortions in the state during a news conference in Little Rock, on June 24. (Stephen Swofford/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/AP)

These kinds of bills could be proposed even before state legislatures reconvene for their regular 2023 legislative sessions, said Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert (R). His home state, he said, may soon address this issue in an already planned special session. Another Arkansas senator, he said, has expressed interest in introducing that legislation.


“Many of us have supported legislation to stop human trafficking,” said Rapert, president of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers. “So why is there a pass on people trafficking women in order to make money off of aborting their babies?”


In a television interview over the weekend, South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) left the door open to restricting out-of-state abortions in her state, where a trigger ban took effect as soon as Roe was overturned. The governor, who has called a special session to discuss abortion legislation, said the topic may be debated in South Dakota in the future.

Abortion is now banned in these states. Others will follow.

Dale Bartscher, the executive director of South Dakota Right to Life, the leading antiabortion organization in South Dakota, said he was “very interested” in stopping South Dakota residents from accessing abortion in other states.


“I’ve heard that bantered about across the state of South Dakota,” he said, though he would not discuss the goal of the upcoming special session.

The idea to restrict out-of-state abortions surfaced earlier this year, when Missouri state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R), who is special counsel at the Thomas More Society, proposed legislation that relied on the Texas-style enforcement mechanism. While Coleman’s bill failed to pass in the 2022 legislative session, Coleman said she has heard from multiple lawmakers and antiabortion advocates in other states who are eager to pursue similar legislation.


The issue is particularly pertinent in Coleman’s home state of Missouri, which outlawed abortion with a trigger ban that took effect within an hour of the Supreme Court’s decision. As many as 14,000 people are expected to flood into southern Illinois this year, including thousands of Missouri residents, according to Planned Parenthood.

Missouri lawmaker seeks to stop residents from obtaining abortions out of state

Coleman Boyd demonstrates outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson. Miss, on June 24. (Emily Kask for The Washington Post)

Several Democrat-led states have passed legislation this year to counteract laws that try to restrict movement across state lines.


Connecticut passed a law in April that offers broad protections from antiabortion laws that try to reach into other states. The measure would shield people from out-of-state summonses or subpoenas issued in cases related to abortion procedures that are legal in Connecticut. And it would prevent Connecticut authorities from adhering to another state’s request to investigate or punish anyone involved in facilitating a legal abortion in Connecticut.


“Legislators in [antiabortion] states have made clear that their intent is not only to ban abortion within their own state’s borders, but to ban it in states where it is expressly permitted,” Connecticut state Rep. Matt Blumenthal (D) said in an interview in April.

California passed a similar law Thursday, aiming to protect abortion providers and patients from civil suits.

N.Y. Planned Parenthood prepares for increase in abortions
Georgana Hanson of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts in Albany, N.Y., responds to the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade. (Video: Erin Patrick O’Connor, Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

The Justice Department has already signaled its intention to fight against these kinds of laws in court.


In a statement Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe “does not eliminate the ability of states to keep abortion legal within their borders. And the Constitution continues to restrict states’ authority to ban reproductive services provided outside their borders.”

That declaration suggests that if a particular state did pass a law seeking to prevent women from traveling across state lines to receive an abortion, the Justice Department might file court papers opposing such a law. That strategy was ultimately unsuccessful in the Justice Department’s opposition to the Texas law limiting many abortions, but any new state law that involved interstate travel could raise additional legal questions for the courts.


Garland argued that the Constitution was unequivocal on the legality of crossing state lines for medical treatment.


“We recognize that traveling to obtain reproductive care may not be feasible in many circumstances. 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,” Garland said, adding that the First Amendment safeguards anyone who offers information or counseling about “reproductive care that is available in other states.”

A Justice Department spokesman did not elaborate on the attorney general’s statement.

David Cohen, a Drexel University law professor who has studied these kinds of proposals, noted that Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh addressed interstate travel in a separate concurring opinion he wrote along with the ruling to overturn Roe, where he specified that people could not be prosecuted for out-of-state abortions.

But Kavanaugh’s concurrence does not address the civil enforcement strategy that is gaining traction among antiabortion groups, Cohen said.

“This is going to create state-against-state and state-against-federal chaos that we haven’t seen in this country in a long time.”

Chris Rowland contributed to this report.

The Thomas More Society, a Catholic legal non-profit, has sued to overturn election results in multiple states and has filed numerous lawsuits against LGBT rights laws and protections of all kinds. They recently appeared on JMG when they won an $800,000 settlement for an anti-lockdown California megachurch. The SPLC lists them as an anti-Muslim hate group.

Adam Schmidt • 14 hours ago

And just for clarity, it’s because of bullshit like this that I refer to places where women can get the care they need as Free States and places where abortion has been banned as Slave States.

Hornbori Adam Schmidt • 14 hours ago

This is just the start. I’m waiting for the Slave States to enact legislation similar to the Fugitive Slave Act,

olandp Hornbori • 14 hours ago

That’s exactly what this is.

JCF Hornbori • 11 hours ago

Hey, if those laws are still on the books, it’s just a matter of time before *this* SCOTUS says… 👍

amandagirl15701 Adam Schmidt • 10 hours ago

It’s remarkable that people are buying into DeSantis’ Free Florida slogan after all of the restrictive laws have passed in that state recently. It’s as if freedom is only for people like him and everyone else must be regulated.

Adam Schmidt • 14 hours ago • edited

On what fucking grounds? I’m her neighbor and was scandalized by her trip to a Free State? Or are we watching in real-time the return of “slave catchers”?

stretchdad Adam Schmidt • 14 hours ago

“Slave catchers” is a good analogy! What I can’t fathom is what damages some unrelated third party could possibly claim. Not that that will stop them from trying…

BobSF_94117 • 15 hours ago

I truly cannot fathom how the “Texas-style” obscenity of civil ligation to restrict basic rights is allowed to continue.

Posthumously BobSF_94117 • 14 hours ago

Republicans control the federal courts. That’s how.

another_steve BobSF_94117 • 14 hours ago

Texas and Florida are currently “Ground Zero” for the theofascists’ attempt to turn the United States of America into a theocracy.

I predict Virginia will soon be joining that club.

tomcor another_steve • 14 hours ago

You are absolutely right….Youngkin is right on board with all of this nonsense because he’s auditioning for VP with DeSantis and the idiot Loudoun County women who elected him will go right along and support the Fascist.

another_steve tomcor • 13 hours ago

Youngkin played it just right during his campaign for the governorship. He avoided the harsh far-right MAGAt rhetoric that he knew would turn off Virginian Independents and wishy-washy asshole Democratic voters.

Virginia brethren reading here can comment on my belief:

Youngkin is a through-and-through, dyed-in-the-wool Christofascist.

The real thing.

stuckinthewoods another_steve • 14 hours ago

Yeah. VA Lt.Gov. Sears just said, “Why are we having these (sic) many abortions?…the mother is not having a lizard,…”

Darreth BobSF_94117 • 12 hours ago • edited

Dems are still mostly oblivious about what’s happening to them. This is what happened in Germany as their liberal republic was dismantled. It’s been so long since the History channel actually showed documentaries about the 3rd Reich that people can’t see it happening.

KnownDonorDad Rebecca Gardner • 14 hours ago

I see it more as akin to the Reconstruction, and with state governments at odds because of lack of federal codification of civil rights and regulatory authority. The series Aftershock: Beyond the Civil War highlights how violent things were after the war was technically over, highly recommended.

Posthumously • 15 hours ago • edited

Yes this is horrifying. But if Republicans pick up a few more state legislatures this fall, they’ll be able to amend the US Constitution unilaterally. That will be even worse.

Yet Democrats persist in focusing on the presidency to the exclusion of down-ballot races.

amy cuscuriae DmR • 15 hours ago

The whole point of Roman Catholicism is foisting its belief on others.

Tomcat DmR • 15 hours ago

I believe Baptist is really the problem in our country right now.

Rebecca Gardner Tomcat • 15 hours ago • edited

Religion, all religion, is a terminal illness for all mankind.

Silverwynde 🌻🇺🇦🌻 Rebecca Gardner • 14 hours ago

We should go full Klingon and kill our gods. They are more trouble than they are worth.

Buford • 15 hours ago

Fascinating how a tax-exempt religious organization gets to craft public policy that the rest of us will have to follow…

…in The Land Of The Free™.

10 thoughts on “Antiabortion lawmakers want to block patients from crossing state lines

    1. Hello Ned. Right and the same for minorities to prove they are free or property. Will people now need a state visa to move between states? Will every woman who tries to cross a border need a certificate saying she is not pregnant? Gods this is a scary police state the republicans and Christian fascist are pushing on the country. Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Nan. All of it is important information that the public had better get to understand. As Ned said will women need papers to prove she is not pregnant to cross state lines? It is not just anti-abortionists. People are becoming prisoners in the US. It is becoming a police state where your life will be dictated by someone else’s church doctrines. Look at the post I made that Florida wants teachers to teach about religion in the state. I knew Texas had at one time tried to outlaw dildos, but I did not know there was a law that you can only 6 in a household. WTF Just why does the state get to regulate that? The republicans / religious leaders want to regulate all aspects of people’s lives. In red states it has already happened with taking medical right away from adult trans people / parents’ rights to seek approved medical treatment for their trans kids, along with now taking away medical rights from women. They have been restricting the rights of blacks to vote and now restricting even the mention that married same sex teachers exist. Really the republicans really want a one party authoritarian rule in the US that is like China’s, where the people have no rights and the government rules with an iron fist. Hugs


  1. They’re simply going to continue to write and pass unconstitional laws, and sue them up to SCOTUS, meanwhile making lives miserable. Maybe they’ll get their ways, but just like a begging young child that nags til they get what they want because people can’t take it anymore, they’ll get a trial at SCOTUS.
    Seems as if rich people would have better things to do with all their money than fund this crap, (Meaning the rightwing’s crap.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ali. That is what Thomas’s written ruling was about when he said he thought the other laws like same sex marriage, birth control, and rights to sodomy for consenting adults were wrongly decided. He was encouraging cases against them that could be appealed to SCOTUS. That is what the rabid Christian legal groups kept doing for decades, just filing case after case to chip away at rights and attempting to gain more rights for religion. It worked. They got a religious court that is willing to sabotage the entire country in the name of their god. Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So we have a 21st century version of ‘The Underground Railway’?
    Or will they try and stop women relocating to ‘Abortion States’.
    AS you know Scottie I thought the US might fracture, though I thought it would be along more wider political lines.
    This issue will guarantee it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Roger, I think you may be correct; it is looking more and more likely. But I am thinking it will be along religious lines. The underground railway won’t work because the way these laws are structures with a bounty system anyone can sue a woman or helper / provider for a suspected abortion (even a mail delivery person for delivering unknow abortion pills) and if they win they get a huge bounty while even if the people suing lost the ones sued still have to pay the costs. How is that legal? It is about sowing as much distrust and fear in people. If someone is suspected of helping a woman cross a state border they can be sued and only one state so far says they will protect people in their state from such suits. The real fear is will we have a women retrieval patrol to go after women and return them to the red states and put them in custody until they give birth. How far are the red states willing to go on controlling women? Will they regulate their food and drink, their other medical issues when they are pregnant? Will pregnant women have to register with the state? It is really scary right now. We have allowed the right to move the country into an almost theocracy in just five years. We allowed the Christian fascist to take over. Hugs

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There are Scottie, always Unforeseen Consequences. I cannot stress this strongly enough.
        Firstly there is the lesson of Prohibition. Wherever there is a law, there will be crime circumventing this. The Red states and their groups may think they have this sewn up. Crime is used to working under the radar, and with Crime comes corruption, there will be those in the legal system trumpeting their pro-Life credentials while taking payments to look the other way. An underground abortion outfits and smuggling to Blue States will take place.
        Secondly, anger, frustration and bitterness will become a mindset in some sections and individuals, therefore terrorism by groups opposed to their state’s stance will arise.
        There will not to be the ease of passage the Theocrats think there will be.
        Looking at the grim side of Human nature; they are not the only ones with the guns and the fury.

        Liked by 2 people

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