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Subcommittee OKs bill targeting transport of minors for abortions

WASHINGTON (BP)–A congressional subcommittee has approved legislation seeking to protect the rights of parents when an underage, pregnant daughter is considering abortion.
The Constitution Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted June 8 in favor of the Child Custody Protection Act. 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.
The vote was along party lines, a congressional staff member said, with Republicans in favor. Republicans also turned back attempts to weaken the legislation with amendments, again with party-line votes, the staffer reported. The bill’s supporters hope to move it through the full committee and to the House floor by the end of June.
“It is very encouraging to see Congress taking up the issues presented in the Child Custody Protection Act this early in this session,” said Will Dodson, public-policy director for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“It’s difficult to imagine why any government — federal, state or local — would interfere with the sacred relationship between parent and child on a matter of grave consequence to our children and our children’s children. Everyone who genuinely values human life and who values the relationship between parent and child should closely follow this legislation in order to hold their elected officials accountable for their position on this issue,” Dodson said.
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 violate the law.
The House adopted the Child Custody Protection Act in a 276-150 vote last year. 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.
Last year, the White House signaled its 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 President Clinton’s support.
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 most recent state to adopt such a law is Texas. Gov. George W. Bush signed a parental-notification bill into law June 7.
The issue of transportation of minors across state lines for abortions was brought to the public’s attention largely by the 1995 case of a Pennsylvania eighth-grader who was secretly driven to New York for an abortion by the stepmother of the 18-year-old man who impregnated her.
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 said.
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.