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House vote bans transport of minors for abortions

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives easily passed a bill outlawing the transportation of minors across state lines for abortions in order to evade parental involvement laws but fell short of the margin needed to override an expected veto.
The House voted 276-150 in favor of the Child Custody Protection Act July 15. A swing of eight votes would have given supporters a two-thirds majority, the amount required for a presidential veto override.
The White House has said it “strongly opposes the bill” unless changes are made. President Clinton’s chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, said in a June letter to a House leader the bill would need at least to exclude “close family members” — such as grandmothers, aunts and siblings — from liability before it would receive White House support.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on similar legislation July 16. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R.-Miss., has said he plans a floor vote before the August recess.
The bill would make it an offense for a person 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 be imprisoned for a maximum of a year. The legislation also would permit parents to sue those who violate the law. It would protect an underage girl who has an abortion and her parents from being prosecuted.
More than 20 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.
“This vote reflects the overwhelming support for the idea of parents’ involvement in the lives of their children versus exclusion of such involvement in favor of abortion advocates,” said Will Dodson, director of public policy for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“It is unfortunate that the vote is just short of a veto-proof margin. President Clinton will surely exercise his veto authority. This is one issue upon which he has been entirely consistent throughout his administration, always doing the bidding of the abortion lobby,” Dodson said.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R.-Fla., chief sponsor of the bill, said after the vote, “Abortion is a potentially life-threatening medical procedure that can cause severe physical or mental ramifications. It is simple common sense that parents be able to advise their daughters about this procedure.”
The vote “helps to secure that a stranger does not rob a mother and a father of this inherent right compelled upon them as parents,” she said.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D.-Texas, attacked pro-life advocates in opposing the bill. “This legislation is not about strengthening family ties,” he said, according to The Washington Times. “It concerns advancing the agenda of the most fanatical people with respect to invading this area of personal choice.”
The vote was mostly along party lines, with Republicans in the majority, although 67 Democrats voted for it and 14 Republicans opposed it.
The issue was brought to the public’s attention largely by the 1995 case of a Pennsylvania eighth-grader who was secretly transported to New York for an abortion by the stepmother of the 18-year-old man who impregnated her.
Apparently, such efforts to keep parents from knowing of a daughter’s pregnancy and/or abortion take place with some frequency. Abortion rights lawyer Kathryn Kolbert of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Law and Policy said in 1995 thousands of adults are helping minors travel from states with parental involvement laws to obtain abortions, according to an Associated Press article in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Some studies have shown a majority of minors who become pregnant are impregnated by men 18 or older. The National Right to Life Committee, which backs the legislation, says 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.
Opponents of the bill argue in part it will drive girls to obtain unsafe abortions rather than inform their parents or seek a judicial bypass.
The bill is H.R. 3682 in the House and S. 1645 in the Senate. Sen. Spencer Abraham, R.-Mich., is the chief sponsor in that chamber.
The House is scheduled for another major vote on abortion June 23. It will vote again in an attempt to override the president’s veto of the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act, which would prohibit a gruesome procedure in which a nearly totally delivered baby is killed. If the House gains a two-thirds majority, the Senate is expected to attempt an override before adjournment in the fall. Last October, Clinton vetoed the bill for the second time. The House achieved a two-thirds majority last time, but the Senate fell short.