high seas

Pro-Choice States Should Protect the Right to Travel for Abortion

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Suppose Roe v. Wade is overturned. A recent fanfare of concern worries that a state would then be able to punish its citizens for traveling to other states to seek medical assistance in ending their pregnancies. Missouri is considering a statute that would do exactly that, and Texas activists are pushing a similar proposal. Other states may follow.

Would such a law be constitutional? It’s hard to be sure.  The doctrine is a confusing mishmash, and the Supreme Court has declined to offer definitive guidance. Although legal scholars have been arguing since the 1990s in favor of a right to travel to seek an abortion, the last time the justices directly addressed the issue of a state’s power to punish crimes beyond its borders was … um … 1941.

In short, we can’t predict how a court would treat an effort by one state to bar its citizens from obtaining abortion in another. But one need not be pro-choice to see the strength of the argument against such a law.

Let’s start with a basic question: Can a state punish its citizens for breaking the state’s laws while beyond its boundaries? It would seem that

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