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Senate opponents block ban on transport of minors for abortions

WASHINGTON (BP)–A second piece of pro-life legislation has died in the Senate as Congress nears the end of its session.
The Senate fell six votes short of ending what amounted to a filibuster of the Child Custody Protection Act in a Sept. 22 vote, and an aide to the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Spencer Abraham, R.-Mich., confirmed Sept. 28 the legislation is dead for this session.
The bill, which the House of Representatives adopted by a 276-150 vote in July, would have made it a crime 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.
The vote followed by only four days the Senate’s latest failure to override President Clinton’s veto of the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act. Senators voted 64-36 for the ban, but it was three votes less than the two-thirds majority necessary for an override.
While much of the attention on Capitol Hill has been on a potential impeachment inquiry into charges against the president, action on ethical issues has taken place recently:
— The House of Representatives Commerce Committee approved Sept. 24 the Child Online Protection Act, which would require commercial pornography distributors on the World Wide Web to remove free images and to require a credit card or personal identification number in order to view sexually explicit material. The Senate passed similar legislation in July.
— The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-6 Sept. 24 in favor of the Lethal Drug Abuse Prevention Act, which would revoke a doctor’s Drug Enforcement Administration registration if he prescribes federally regulated drugs for the purpose of assisted suicide or euthanasia. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, committee chairman, said he did not expect the full Senate to act on the bill this session. The House Judiciary Committee approved similar legislation in August.
While it appeared certain the Child Custody Protection Act had enough votes for Senate passage, opponents of the bill sought to kill it by offering unrelated amendments that would impede action as adjournment neared. Adjournment is scheduled for Oct. 9. Abraham attempted to overcome this strategy by invoking cloture, which would have prevented consideration of unrelated amendments. Cloture requires 60 votes, however, and the cloture motion gained only a 54-45 vote.
The National Right to Life Committee, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life organizations supported the bill.
“We are dismayed that 45 senators voted with President Clinton to kill legislation that would help protect young women and girls from harmful manipulation, often by much older boyfriends,” said NRLC policy analyst Susan Muskett.
The White House had signaled its opposition to the bill unless changes were made. 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.
“It is indeed unfortunate when an unmarried, minor girl has sex and becomes pregnant,” said Will Dodson, the ERLC’s director of public policy. “No doubt it is a situation which would be difficult for any family to deal with. Nevertheless, it is the family which should deal with it and not those outside of the family who think they are enlightened about what is right under the circumstances.
“It is time for parents in general, and fathers in particular, to stand between our families and outside forces, however well-intentioned they may be, and to defend against their interference. The truth of the matter is many of these outside forces are not well-intentioned and represent a view of life which fails to respect the God-ordained institution of the family.”
A person violating the law could have been fined and/or imprisoned for a maximum of a year. The legislation would have permitted parents to sue those who violate the law. It also would have protected 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.
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 NRLC said 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 argued in part it will drive girls to obtain unsafe abortions rather than inform their parents or seek a judicial bypass.
The Senate’s vote on the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act marked the second time it has failed to achieve a two-thirds majority after the House has succeeded in an override vote. The House voted 296-132 in July in favor of an override.
Clinton vetoed the bill in both April 1996 and October 1997. In 1996, the House overrode his veto by a 285-137 vote, but the Senate fell short at 57-41.
The legislation would have prohibited a procedure performed on almost totally delivered babies normally in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. The method involves the delivery of an intact baby feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the baby’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain. The collapse of the skull enables easier removal of the dead child.