By Andrew Goudsward
(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday backed the right of people to travel across state lines to receive an abortion, supporting two lawsuits brought by healthcare organizations and abortion advocates in Alabama.
Justice Department lawyers argued the U.S. Constitution protects the right of people to travel from states where abortion is banned or restricted to receive a legal abortion in another state.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that “bedrock constitutional principles dictate that 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.”
The Alabama lawsuits seek to block the state from criminally prosecuting those who facilitate out-of-state travel for an abortion. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has said those who aid travel can be charged with conspiracy if the out-of-state abortion would have been illegal in Alabama.
A spokesperson for Marshall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Justice Department is not directly involved in the lawsuits, but issued a court filing known as a statement of interest in support of the abortion advocates.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the national right to abortion last year, the Justice Department under President Joe Biden has challenged abortion restrictions it views as conflicting with federal law.
Garland has previously vowed to protect the right of interstate travel for reproductive healthcare.
In a separate case, a U.S. judge on Thursday blocked the state of Idaho from enforcing a law making it a crime to help a minor cross state lines for an abortion without her parents’ consent.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas, Dan Whitcomb and Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Chris Reese)