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Panel OKs ban on transport of underage girls for abortions

WASHINGTON (BP)–A House of Representatives committee has approved legislation that would protect parents’ rights when an underage girl is seeking an abortion outside her state in order to avoid a parental involvement law.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 19-6 March 22 in favor of the Child Custody Protection Act. The bill, H.R. 476, makes it a federal offense for a person to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion when the state in which the girl lives requires either parental notification or consent before such a procedure.

While the House may pass the bill for the third time in five years, it appears Senate approval again will be a problem. The House easily adopted the measure in 1998 and 1999, but the bill died in the Senate both times.

President Clinton refused to endorse the legislation when it was passed by the House previously, but supporters of the bill are hopeful President Bush will back it.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is one of many pro-life organizations supporting the bill.

The House panel’s approval of the measure came on a party-line vote, with Republicans in the majority.

At least 24 states have laws that genuinely require the notification or consent of at least one parent or a 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. Supporters of the Child Custody Protection Act argue 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.

In the best known example of such an incident, a Pennsylvania eighth-grader was secretly taken to New York in 1995 for an abortion by the stepmother of the 18-year-old man who impregnated her. Such occurrences may not be rare. Also in 1995, abortion-rights lawyer Kathryn Kolbert of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Law and Policy said, according to a news report, thousands of adults are helping minors travel from states with parental involvement laws in order to obtain abortions.

Opponents of the bill have argued in part it will cause girls to obtain unsafe abortions to avoid informing their parents or seeking a judicial bypass.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R.-Fla., is the bill’s chief House sponsor, as she was during its previous passage by representatives.

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