Maine parents kidnap daughter to force abortion

Bizarre story serves as reminder of the lengths to which some women who want an abortion must go.

Published September 20, 2006 4:14PM (EDT)

You may have already heard about the Maine couple arrested for allegedly -- and unsuccessfully -- kidnapping their pregnant 19-year-old daughter Katelyn to take her out of state for an abortion. Several follow-up stories, while mightily resisting any unfair wisecracks about the couple's surname, are currently focusing on whether Nicholas and Lola Kampf had racist motives. (The boyfriend in question is apparently black.) But the Portland Press Herald has found the proper context for making this story a bit more than a crackpot tempest in a teapot.

It's unclear what sort of doctor in any state, other than one played by Jeremy Irons, would have performed the procedure on an adult against her will, illegally, in the first place. It's also unclear exactly how far along Katelyn is. But, as the Press Herald implies, what's interesting is her parents' conviction that she'd need to be taken out of state in the first place, in the trunk of a car or otherwise. Maine is actually known, and cited by NARAL Pro-Choice America, for its abortion-rights-supporting laws and leadership. But the controversy over so-called (and ill-defined) partial-birth abortion has, for fuzzy legal reasons, made some doctors there -- and elsewhere -- more skittish, depending on medical circumstances, about performing the procedure after the first trimester (when the vast majority of abortions occur to begin with). In Maine and elsewhere, women often need at least a trimester to save the money for the procedure -- a fee that only rises as their pregnancy progresses. That, plus the fact that 63 percent of Maine's counties have no abortion provider at all, is what sends Mainers in need out of state, often to New York.

To be clear, the argument here is not "the Kampfs should have been able to keep their kidnapping in state!" Nor would we go quite so far as to call them poster parents for overturning outright or de facto limits on women's access to abortion. (However, of course, speaking of posters, the antiabortion forces are all over Katelyn. "She's got a lot of courage to jump out of the car and make a phone call to the police," Joe Scheidler, director of the Pro-Life Action League, told the Press Herald, referring to Katelyn's escape at a rest stop. "It sounds like to me she's a gutsy kid and she might be a spokesman for pro-life.") Even Planned Parenthood of Northern New England sees this as an anomalous story that's more about abduction than abortion. That's fair enough. But it's still a reminder-in-relief that even in a state with liberal laws and legislators, some women choosing abortion, while not bound in actual duct tape, may be forced to exercise their legal rights elsewhere.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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