Kidnapping Charges for Idaho Teen and Mother Seen as Test Case for ‘Abortion Trafficking’ Law

“Prosecutors seeking to test out laws like this are likely to go after people who won’t garner much sympathy from the public,” wrote one author and abortion rights activist.

By Brett Wilkins. Published 10-31-2023 by Common Dreams

An Idaho teenager and his mother are facing kidnapping and other charges for alleged crimes including kidnapping after they took a 15-year-old girl to Oregon for an abortion. Photo: Zach/flickr/CC

An Idaho teenager and his mother who allegedly took a 15-year-old girl to neighboring Oregon for an abortion without parental knowledge or consent are facing felony kidnapping and other charges in a prosecution viewed as a test case for the state’s “abortion trafficking” statute.

In April, Idaho became the first state in the nation to pass a so-called “abortion trafficking” law, criminalizing the transportation of pregnant minors within the state for the purpose of obtaining an abortion or abortion medication. While 18-year-old Kadyn Swainston and his 42-year-old mother Rachael Swainston of Pocatello were not charged under the law—perhaps because it is being challenged in court—author and activist Jessica Valenti noted that “prosecutors used the exact language of the trafficking law in the kidnapping charge.”

“It’s actually a pretty slick move, allowing prosecutors to charge the two with abortion trafficking without citing the statute specifically in case it gets blocked,” Valenti wrote on her Substack.

The Idaho State Journal reported Monday that Kadyn Swainston has been charged with rape, second-degree kidnapping, and three counts of producing child sexually exploitative material—all felonies.

Rachael Swainston is charged with second-degree kidnapping, trafficking in methamphetamine, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, and one count of harboring a wanted felon—also all felonies.

If convicted of the most serious charges against them, the Swainstons could receive life prison sentences.

According to Pocatello police, a woman contacted them in June claiming that her 15-year-old daughter—identified in court records as K.B.—had been raped by Kadyn Swaintston, who had been in a consensual relationship with the girl since he was 17 years old but as an adult allegedly ran afoul of the state’s statutory rape law. The woman told investigators that the Swainstons took K.B. to Bend, Oregon for an abortion, without her knowledge or consent.

Idaho law bans most abortions—with conditional exceptions for rape, incest, and when the pregnant person’s life is endangered—and allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” the procurement of an abortion and awards them $10,000 if they win their case. Fifty years of federal abortion rights were erased in June 2022 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling.

Valenti noted that police obtained permission from K.B. to track her phone’s geolocational data to the area of the Planned Parenthood clinic where she had her abortion.

While executing a search warrant at the Swainstons’ home, police also found more than 40 grams of methamphetamine there, as well as fentanyl and psychedelic mushrooms, and photos showing Kadyn Swainston and K.B. engaging in sex acts. They also found and arrested a man wanted on an outstanding warrant on meth trafficking charges who was staying in the home’s storage shed.

“It’s not surprising that the people at the center of this case seem to be having a really difficult time—we know that the most marginalized among us are much more likely to be charged or targeted by law enforcement in abortion-related cases (and all others),” wrote Valenti. “We also know that prosecutors seeking to test out laws like this are likely to go after people who won’t garner much sympathy from the public.”

“The hope,” she added, “is that people will be a little less outraged over an objectively outrageous law.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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