Taking away "a critical safety valve for teens"

The pro-life agenda is gaining traction in Congress -- and underage girls may suffer the results.

Published April 14, 2005 10:30PM (EDT)

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee moved forward a bill that would make it very difficult for a minor to obtain an abortion without notifying her parents. Currently, over 30 states have some sort of mandatory parental notification law. Although statistics show that most young girls typically involve their parents in the decision to have an abortion, an unknown number cross state lines to avoid it. The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, sent to the House floor for a full vote (where it's expected to pass), would make that nearly impossible.

Introduced by Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehinten, the bill has two separate provisions. The first would make it a criminal offense (punishable by up to year of jail time) for someone who isn't a parent or guardian to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion, if coming from a state with strict parental-notice laws. The other provision would require abortion clinics in states that have no notification laws to call a minor's parents and let them know where their daughter is, or face criminal charges. (There is one exception in which the young woman could try to plead her case before a judge in her home state and obtain a judicial waiver bypassing the parental notice requirement.)

Reproductive rights groups are worried that the bill will endanger young women who have strong reason to keep their abortion plans to themselves. "This bill cuts off a critical safety valve for teens who can't involve a parent in their decision," Jennifer Dalven, of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, told War Room. "Either in cases where a parent is abusive, or has threatened to kick them out of the house if they got pregnant, or if they have religious parents who would force them to carry the pregnancy to term."

Similar versions of the bill have been around for at least seven years. Legislation has passed in the House three times, but Senate Democrats have prevented it from coming up for a vote. Still, pro-choice advocates may want to take the situation even more seriously now: This year, Republican senators have put it on their list of top ten priorities. It's still a long-shot to pass, but the Senate gained several more antiabortion lawmakers last November, and is inching closer to the number of votes needed to empower the pro-life agenda.

By Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

MORE FROM Julia Scott

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion War Room