In the context of Roe v Wade discussion of the abortion issue, it's been suggested that even if the decision were to be reversed, it would have little effect. The argument goes along the lines that most states would not want to attract the social ire that would go with making abortions illegal because anyone can travel to neighboring states and there would be a lot of social desire to setup accommodations to those wishing to travel across state lines for abortions.

Somehow I remember it being mentioned on many previous occasions though that there is a federal law forbidding taking minors across state lines. Is that an urban myth? Is there such a law? Is it limited to cases of sexual trafficking? Or is it wide in scope? Would it make assisting minors to travel to neighboring states to get abortions a federal crime?

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    It may be a moot point, even if you could travel across state lines without parental permission, you would still need a legal guardian's permission for the procedure.
    – Ron Beyer
    Oct 10, 2018 at 20:24
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    @RonBeyer not in every state. In fact, giving parents the power to forbid abortion is highly controversial. And I am not sure which states do give parents such power (to force a minor to carry a child to term).
    – grovkin
    Oct 10, 2018 at 20:25
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    @grovkin: Everything about abortion is controversial. However, as a general rule, a minor is incompetent to give legal consent to undergo a medical procedure (unless emancipated), due to being a minor. For example, a minor could not undergo, say, lasik, even if they had the money in cash for the procedure, without a legal guardian's consent. Allowing minors to consent to undergoing an abortion is an exception from the general rule.
    – sharur
    Oct 10, 2018 at 20:42
  • @sharur it is an exception. As far as I know, even the debate on whether doctors have a right to let parents know that their minor child had an abortion is settled on not allowing doctors to let the parents know. There might be exceptions for allowing parents know if there are medical complications, but if the listed 1st contact is someone other than their guardian, this may still be in effect. Roe v Wade forces the view of abortion as a choice not to carry rather than as a procedure to terminate.
    – grovkin
    Oct 10, 2018 at 20:49
  • Before Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood did routinely knowingly transport minors to states where abortion was legal so they could get an abortion and return home the same day without their parents knowing about it. Oct 10, 2018 at 23:16

1 Answer 1


Under 18 U.S.C. § 2423, transporting a minor across state lines is a crime when done with the purpose to engage in illegal sex or child pornography:

(a) Transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. --A person who knowingly transports an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any commonwealth, territory or possession of the United States, with intent that the individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life.

(b) Travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. --A person who travels in interstate commerce or travels into the United States, or a United States citizen or an alien admitted for permanent residence in the United States who travels in foreign commerce, for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

(c) Engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. --Any United States citizen or alien admitted for permanent residence who travels in foreign commerce or resides, either temporarily or permanently, in a foreign country, and engages in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

I can't find anything suggesting that the intent to obtain an abortion would implicate this or any other law, though there have been attempts, such as the perennially introduced, but never-passed Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act.

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    Could a hypothetical state create a law classifying abortions as sex crimes? Wouldn't anyone taking a minor out of that state be doing it "with intent that the individual engage in sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense" under such a law? The quoted part is meant to match the description in section (a) of the statute.
    – grovkin
    Oct 11, 2018 at 1:13
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    A state could say that abortion is a sexual activity for purposes of state law, but that wouldn't make it sexual activity for purposes of federal law.
    – bdb484
    Oct 11, 2018 at 1:39
  • I don't think an uncomfortable medical procedure fits with sex because it's not prurient, not sexually arousing. That would probably be struck down by a court. Like a mammogram. Feb 10, 2023 at 22:19

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