House: Did we mention we don't care about teens?

The Teen Endangerment Act passes. Again.

Published September 27, 2006 3:16AM (EDT)

I had a weird Groundhog Day moment when I read this breaking news: "House passes Teen Endangerment Act (CIANA)."

Hold on -- didn't they do that already? Had we woken up on April 27, 2005, all over again? Or had Planned Parenthood's e-mail press releaser malfunctioned, resending the most depressing bulletins from last spring? Or ... had the House indeed -- ignoring, as the press release notes, "pressing national issues such as port security, tax breaks for the middle class and funding for critical social services" -- "used precious floor time in the weeks before Election Day to revisit this dangerous law, despite having already passed a very similar measure in April 2005?"

Sadly, maddeningly, the answer is this: Yes, they've passed it again. You remember CIANA (the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act), right? NARAL Pro-Choice America summarizes it thus:

-- "It would impose an impossibly complex patchwork of parental-involvement laws on women and doctors across the country, making it practically impossible for young women to access abortion care in another state. Because only 13 percent of U.S. counties have an abortion provider, for many young women the closest provider is in a neighboring state.

-- "It would impose criminal penalties on any adult other than a parent -- including a grandparent, aunt, or religious counselor -- who accompanies a young woman for abortion care in another state. This bill has no exception for teens who turn to another responsible adult because of violence at home, or in situations of rape or incest.

-- "Not only is the bill unconstitutional, it would impose criminal penalties on doctors who make an honest or inadvertent mistake in complying with one of the many complicated provisions.

Why put minors and abortion back in the political spotlight? Because supporters of this bill -- that is, of the type of political capital that comes with it -- are pouting that the law that should come of it has been stalled since the Senate version passed in July. And the doublespeak on this issue ("protecting our children," "parental rights") has had some traction with voters -- unlike other wedge/"values" issues of late. "It's clear that anti-choice congressional leaders are using divisive issues, like CIANA, to buck up sagging poll numbers and rally their far-right base to protect vulnerable incumbents," says NARAL president Nancy Keenan. Yeah. Vulnerable incumbents. Way more important than protecting our vulnerable citizens.

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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