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Tuesday, June 25, 2024, 12:00 pm EDT


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Extradition of “Fleeing Felons”

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Every once in a while we read something that breaks through the cacaphony of legislation designed to deprive people of autonomy over their bodies and lives. Over the past year, states have been inundated with anti-abortion and anti-trans legislation.

Last week a California state senator introduced a bill to protect “fleeing felons” from other states from extradition. The “fleeing felons” to be protected by SB 36 are “abortion or gender-affirming-care refugees” —  people whose “alleged offense or conviction is for the violation of the law of another state that authorizes a criminal penalty to an individual performing, receiving, supporting, or aiding in the performance or receipt of an abortion or gender-affirming care if the abortion or care is lawful under the laws of [California].” 

Connecticut too passed a law shielding abortion refugees from extradition.  As a result, Connecticut tribunals are now prohibited from issuing subpoenas or summons requested by another state relating to reproductive health care services. The law prohibits public agencies or employees, appointees, officers, officials, or individuals acting on behalf of a public agency from expending time, money, and resources in the furtherance of any interstate investigation or proceeding to impose civil or criminal liability on an individual or entity for seeking assistance or assisting others with reproductive health care services.

Governors of numerous states have issued safe harbor or non-extradition executive orders addressing the issue, and several states have enacted laws like those of Connecticut and California as relates to abortion and gender-affirming care providers. 

These laws will likely lead to collision with Article 4 section 2 of the Constitution, which provides:

“A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.”

Thus, the matter seems headed to the Supreme Court. Because fewer people rally in support of trans people than do in support of abortion, it seems likely that the right wing will target anti-trans legislation as the test case.  In any event, we are wise to recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller and stand together.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.