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Parental consent/notification for teen abortions:

A federal bill to criminalize efforts
to help teens get an abortion

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House activity: The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act

This act is a.k.a. The Teen Endangerment Act and CIANA.

Consent and notification laws have had the effect of reducing the abortion rate in many states among young women under the age of 18. However, many teens have simply crossed state lines and had an abortion in an adjacent jurisdiction which was without such a law. Thus, the abortion rates in the 35 states that have implemented such a law had tended to decrease, whereas adjacent states see a relative increase.

Parental notification acts have strong general support from the American public. A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,534 voters was conducted from 2005-MAR-02 to 07. They found that 75% supported and 18% opposed this type of law. 3 The margin of error was about 2.6%

Previous to 2005, the House had considered a series of three federal parental notification bills which would restrict the ability of teens to cross state lines to obtain an abortion. The House passed such bills in 1998, 1999 and 2002. However, the Senate has let all of them die. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced Bill 748 in 2005. It is the fourth in the series, and is called The Teen Endangerment Act. 3 The text of the bill is available online. 4

The National Right to Life Committee strongly supported the bill. 3 They note that state parental consent laws "...are often circumvented by interstate transportation of minors, and Congress has a duty to regulate this interstate activity, which is the sole purpose and effect of the CIANA." They opposed adding a health exemption to CIANA  because the "...term 'health' is often construed to include alleviation of emotional distress and thereby could be employed to cover any abortion."

The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the bill, commenting that:

"Bill 748 imposes a mandatory parental notification requirement and waiting period on a young woman who needs abortion services in a state where she does not reside, even if neither her state of residence nor the state where she seeks an abortion has enacted a parental notification law.

Moreover, the bill creates two new federal crimes. First, it forces doctors, under the threat of federal criminal prosecution, to comply with an onerous legal scheme mandating that an out-of-state teen's parents be notified of her decision to have an abortion. Second, H.R. 748 would make it a federal crime for a person other than a parent -- including a grandmother, aunt, sibling, or clergy member -- to help a teen cross certain state lines for an abortion unless the teen had already fulfilled the requirements of her home state's law restricting teens' abortions." 1

The bill has no exemption in cases where an abortion is needed to preserve the woman's health, even if an abortion is needed to prevent permanent disabling injury. It requires doctors to become expert on every state's parental notification requirements, because she or he would have to meet the laws of both the state where the abortion is to be performed, and the laws in the woman's residence. The doctor is required to notify parents in person. They might have to "...travel hundreds of miles out of state in order to comply....H.R. 748 ...deprives teens of their right to travel to engage in conduct legal in another state. Moreover, H.R. 748 violates the sovereignty of those states that have invalidated, rejected, or chosen not to enact parental involvement laws by imposing a federal notification requirement on certain (but not all) minors in that state."

The bill provides for certain exceptions:

bulletWhen the abortion is needed to save the life of the woman.
bulletWhen the woman can prove that a court in her home state waived parental notification.
bulletWhen the woman says that she is a victim of sexual abuse by a parent and can prove that she has reported the abuse to the police in her state.

Democratic amendments would have excepted from prosecutions grandparents, clergy, bus drivers, taxicab drivers. ABC News reported that: "Democrats complained that their efforts to soften the bill, for example, by exempting from prosecution adult siblings and grandparents who help pregnant minors, were described in the GOP-authored committee report as efforts to protect 'sexual predators'." 6

ABC News also reported that:

bulletOpponents say any gains the bill might make would be dwarfed by health, abuse and legal problems that pregnant girls and their well-meaning confidants might suffer.
bulletBebe J. Anderson, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said it would produce "a confusing maze of requirements ... designed to isolate some teens and leave others with no safe options."
bullet"No matter how few people it affects, it's an important bill on the principles," said Frist (R-TN) 2

The bill passed in the House on 2005-APR-27 by a vote of 270 to 157. 216 Republicans and 54 Democrats voted in favor; 145 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one independent voted against. 95% of the Republicans supported the bill; 73% of the Democrats opposed it. 5

President Bush praised the House for their action. He said: "The parents of pregnant minors can provide counsel, guidance and support to their children and should be involved in these decisions. I urge the Senate to pass this important legislation and help continue to build a culture of life in America." 6 None of the previous attempts have been taken up by the Senate. However, this was on the Republican's top ten list of legislative priorities.

On 2005-JUL-11, the bill was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar. 5

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Senate activity:

Bill S. 403, the Child Custody Protection Act would have required a young woman under the age of 18 to inform at least one parent before she obtained an abortion in another state if her home state had a law requiring parental notification. The intent of the bill was to prevent young women from traveling to another state which lacked such a law in order to obtain an abortion without informing their parents. The bill was originally passed by the Senate on 2006-JUL-25 with a vote of 65 to 34.

Shortly before Congress adjourned on SEP-29, 57 senators voted on whether to remove the final procedural obstacle to the bill so that President Bush could sign it into law. However, 60 "cloture votes" were required to end a filibuster. Fifty one out of 55 Republicans and 6 of the 45 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. 7,8

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Note:

The above essay is for informational purposes only. It is not to be interpreted as legal or medical advice.

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References used:

The following source of information was used in the preparation and updating of this essay. The Internet link is not necessarily still intact.

  1. Laura Murphy & Gregory Nojeim, "ACLU Letter to the House of Representatives Urging Opposition to the Teen Endangerment Act (H.R. 748)," American Civil Liberties Union, 2005-APR-26, at: http://www.aclu.org
  2. Laurie Kellman, "House OKs Bill Toughening Abortion Consent. House Passes Bill That Would Make It Illegal to Take Minors Across State Lines for Abortions," Associated Press, 2005-APR-28, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  3. Douglas Johnson & Patricia Coll, Letter to members of Congress, National Right to Life, 2005-APR-22, at: http://www.nrlc.org/
  4. The text of "H.R. 748," is online at: http://www.nrlc.org/
  5. "H.R. 748: Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act," GovTrack.us, at: http://www.govtrack.us/
  6. "Bush, Frist Praise Bill That Allows Pregnant Minors To Murder Their Unborn By Abortion," The American View, 2005-APR-29, at: http://www.peroutka2004.com/
  7. "Senate Dems abort parent notification bill," UPI Religion & Spirituality Forum, 2006-OCT-02, at: http://www.religionandspirituality.com/
  8. The text of the Child Custody Protection Act, S 403 ES, Senate, is at: http://thomas.loc.gov/

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Copyright 2005 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-JUN-09
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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