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House OKs ban on transport of underage girls for abortions

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a measure seeking to protect the rights of parents when their underage, pregnant daughters are considering abortion but with fewer votes than last year.
The House voted 270-159 in favor of the Child Custody Protection Act June 30. The bill, H.R. 1218, would make it a crime for an adult to transport a minor to another state for an abortion without the parents’ involvement when the state in which the girl lives requires either parental notification or consent before such a procedure. A person violating the law could be fined and/or imprisoned for a maximum of a year. The legislation would permit parents to sue those who break the law.
Last year, before the November elections reduced the Republican majority in the House, the bill passed in a 276-150 vote. It died in the Senate, however, when supporters fell six votes short of the 60 needed to end delaying tactics employed by opponents near the close of the session.
Signals from the White House have not been hopeful for the bill’s enactment. Last year, President Clinton signaled his opposition to the bill unless changes were made. The White House said the bill would need at least to exclude “close family members” — such as grandmothers, aunts and siblings — from liability before it would receive the president’s support.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is among the many pro-life organizations supporting the bill.
“Fortunately, the House refused to undermine parental rights” by adopting such an amendment, said Susan Muskett of the National Right to Life Committee in a written release. “After all, if the minor girl is injured by the abortion, it is the parents who must authorize and pay for necessary medical treatment — not a brother, sister or in-law.”
Twenty-five states have laws in effect requiring the notification or consent of at least one parent or guardian, or authorization by a judge, before a minor can have an abortion.
Some studies have shown a majority of minors who become pregnant are impregnated by men 18 or older. Such a man has an incentive to keep the pregnancy hidden by means of a secret abortion, since he is vulnerable to a statutory rape charge, supporters of the legislation have said.
Opponents of the bill have argued in part it will drive girls to obtain unsafe abortions rather than inform their parents or seek a judicial bypass.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R.-Fla., is the bill’s chief sponsor, while Sen. Spencer Abraham, R.-Mich., is the prime sponsor of the Senate version.