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Democrats continue block on parental rights law

WASHINGTON (BP)–Democratic senators continue to block the progress of parental rights legislation approved by both houses of Congress and supported by pro-life advocates, making it possible the session will end without it becoming law.

Democrats maintained Aug. 3 their refusal to budge from a procedural tactic that is preventing the Child Custody Protection Act (CCPA) from progressing to congressional negotiators. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada blocked Majority Leader Bill Frist’s attempt to send the bill to a conference committee, even though Frist made a concession called for by Democrats.

The CCPA is intended to prevent the transportation of underage girls across state lines to obtain abortions in avoidance of parental involvement laws in the girls’ home states.

The Senate passed the measure with a 65-34 vote July 25. After the action, Frist, from Tennessee, promptly moved for the bill to go to a conference committee, where differences between it and a version passed by the House of Representatives could be reconciled. Sen. Richard Durbin, D.-Ill., the assistant minority leader, objected to the normally routine request, thereby halting the advance of the bill.

Frist again sought unanimous consent Aug. 3, after Durbin asked for a promise an amendment added to the Senate bill would be kept in the final version from the conference committee. The amendment, passed 98-0 by senators, bars a father who impregnates his daughter from taking her to another state for an abortion or from suing a person who provides such transportation.

Frist gave assurances he would not support Senate consideration of a conference report without the amendment. When he asked for unanimous consent to send the bill to a conference committee, Reid objected, again preventing further action. Reid blocked the measure’s progress, even though he had voted for the bill earlier.

A conference committee –- consisting of members from both the Senate and House -– is required when there are differences between bills approved by both chambers. If the committee reports out a final version, both houses must pass it.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy entity has called for some of its constituents to urge the 14 Democratic senators who voted for the CCPA to demand their leaders end their objection to sending the bill to a conference committee.

“The Democratic leadership is attempting to kill the bill by ‘running out the clock,’ and not much time remains,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in an Aug. 1 message to recipients of the entity’s “action alert” emails.

“Liberals have been unable to stop this bill in both houses, so they’re trying to kill the bill by parliamentary maneuvering,” Land said. “They are putting their liberal pro-abortion values before the concerns of parents and, most importantly, of young girls in need.”

The ERLC called for contacts with the following Democratic supporters of the CCPA: Sens. Evan Bayh, Indiana; Robert Byrd, West Virginia; Thomas Carper, Delaware; Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, North Dakota; Daniel Inouye, Hawaii; Tim Johnson, South Dakota; Herb Kohl, Wisconsin; Mary Landrieu, Louisiana; Bill Nelson, Florida; Ben Nelson, Nebraska; Mark Pryor, Arkansas; Harry Reid, Nevada, and Ken Salazar, Colorado.

The Senate is scheduled to go into a month-long recess by Aug. 7. Congressional leaders have set Oct. 6 as a target for adjournment, leaving the Senate and House only a month after they reconvene Sept. 5 to approve a final version of a bill.

President Bush has said he will sign the legislation, if it arrives on his desk.

The July 25 vote marked the first time the Senate has passed such a proposal. The House, however, has approved a similar bill four times. In its most recent action, the House passed the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act in April 2005 with a 270-157 vote.

The Senate legislation (S. 403), like the House version (H.R. 748), is designed to protect the rights of parents in states that have enacted either parental notification or consent laws regarding abortions for minor girls.

The House version has a significant mandate not included in the Senate bill. It requires an abortion doctor in a state without a parental involvement law to inform a parent before he performs an abortion on a minor girl who lives in a different state. Exceptions exist when the girl has received a judicial bypass in her home state and when she qualifies in cases of abuse or medical emergencies.

There are 29 states that have effective parental involvement laws that are not being blocked by courts.

NARAL Pro-choice America, the National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood Federation of America are among the abortion rights organizations that have fought passage of the measure.

Unless Democratic opponents of the bill change their tactics, it appears lengthy debate and a cloture vote will be needed to move the measure to a conference committee. Invoking cloture would require 60 votes.

Opponents of the legislation have argued that girls would obtain unsafe abortions rather than tell their parents or seek a judicial bypass, especially in cases of sexual abuse by a father or stepfather.

Some minors travel from or are transported from states with parental involvement laws to neighboring states that have no such laws in order to undergo abortions. Abortion clinics in states without parental involvement laws sometimes advertise their services in adjacent states that have such laws.

Some studies have shown a majority of minors who become pregnant are impregnated by men 18 or older. The men, or their family members, sometimes take the minors across state lines to obtain abortions. Supporters of the proposals to ban such activities argue that these men have an incentive to keep the pregnancy hidden by means of secret abortions, since they are vulnerable to statutory rape charges.

In an April 2005 survey by The Polling Co., 82 percent of Americans disagreed with a person being able “to take a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion without her parents’ knowledge.”