Last month, when one of Idaho’s many new anti-abortion laws was being challenged in court, the governor tried to declare that the issue was over.

“Our nation’s highest court returned the issue of abortion to the states to regulate,” Idaho Gov. Brad Little said. “End of story.”

The story, though, is not only not ending, it’s twisting in unforeseen ways. The governor need only look around his own state.

Take the story of the $1,200 cab ride.

Around the time the governor was attempting to close the book on the matter, a Boise woman, one of Little’s own constituents, was calling a taxi and lighting out for Oregon. More than 315 miles later — for a cab fare of $1,200 — she got dropped at a clinic in an office park in Bend, one of the closest places left where Idahoans can get reproductive health care.

That someone would do this — take a cab that far, at that cost, to get access to an abortion — is part of a booming desperation industry called “abortion travel.”

“We are seeing people from almost every red state in the country right now — Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Idaho, any state that has a ban,” said Anne Udall, head of Planned Parenthood in Oregon and southwest Washington, which runs the Bend clinic.


Udall is the one who shared the $1,200 cab ride story. She did not offer more details, citing patient privacy, except to say that a travel fund would be tapped to reimburse the fare.

“The story is an important one because it illustrates what people will do to get care,” she said. “And two, we’re going to see this pattern.”

Meaning: It’s going to get worse.

Traveling long distances to get medical care or even abortion is not new (some states have long only had one or two reproductive health clinics, guaranteeing travel odysseys to get there). What’s different now is patients are going on the run from the law.

“There’s an isolation people feel when their state bans the procedure they need, in some cases making it a crime,” said Katrina Kimport, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, who interviewed dozens of women who undertook what she calls “forced abortion travel.”

This is different from traveling for, say, cancer treatments, she says. It’s “travel compelled by legal restriction.”

“They feel like their own state wants to punish them,” she said.


In Idaho, lawmakers have piled on every anti-abortion scheme they can fever-dream. They passed a ban on all abortions from conception, making it a felony with a minimum two-year prison sentence for the doctors. They passed a separate ban on any abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. And they passed a third, Texas-style system, in which relatives of the fetus can narc on the doctors and get a $20,000 bounty.

The Idaho governor — the one who said the story was over — admitted this bounty system would “retraumatize” women, and could even perversely grant monetary rewards to “the family members of rapists” (his words). But facing a far-right, Donald Trump-endorsed challenger at the time, he incredibly signed it into law anyway.

The bounty system especially can cause women to go it alone, making them afraid to even ask a relative or friend for a ride, Kimport said.

“It’s possible that given the constraints facing her, and the legal environment in that state, that incurring a $1,200 cab fare was something this person decided was a clear and rational choice to make,” Kimport said. “There’s a time urgency to these decisions, sometimes an emergency. So the women I interviewed weren’t worried about how far or how long they had to travel. They were mostly worried the clinics might turn them away.”

That may happen eventually. At a clinic in Pullman, 80% of the patients now are from Idaho, double what it was in the spring. Wait times are rising; the wait at the clinic in Bend, where the Boise patient went, is two weeks.

On top of all this, this past week Republicans in Congress proposed blocking the federal government from helping anyone traveling to get an abortion, such as with travel funds.


Facing a $1,200 cab ride across Eastern Oregon? You are on your own. As one critic said about Idaho’s post-Roe v. Wade legal environment, it’s “especially cruel because it only applies to those who don’t have the resources to find a way around it.”

To counter this, both the states of Washington and Oregon have stepped up funds to help the travelers, as have charity networks such as the Northwest Abortion Access Fund.

The post-Roe dystopia though, is just getting going. This summer some groups have begun running mobile abortion vans along red-state lines, starting with Utah, to try to cut travel distances for patients. It’s a valiant effort. But it’s hard to think of a sorrier commentary on the state of America’s regard for women, circa 2022, than “go get your abortion in the van at the border.”

Kimport said the travel funds probably won’t be enough to meet the demand. Beyond that, it’s the emotional costs of events like the $1,200 cab ride that are hardest to quantify.

“When your state bans something and forces you to go elsewhere to get it, it suggests there is something you should be ashamed of,” she said.

That’s the story, Idaho. You’ve turned some of the state’s women into desperados. And it’s nowhere near the end, it’s only the beginning.