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Subcommittee passes bill targeting transport of minors for abortions

WASHINGTON (BP)–A congressional subcommittee has given its approval to a bill aimed at preventing minors from being transported across state lines for abortions in order to evade state parental involvement laws.
The Constitution Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee passed the Child Custody Protection Act by a 7-2 vote along party lines, with Republicans in the majority.
No date has been set for a full committee vote, a subcommittee spokesman said. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R.-Ga., and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R.-Miss., have both said they plan floor votes this summer on the legislation.
In May, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission endorsed the legislation in a joint letter to members of Congress. Other organizations signing onto the letter were the National Right to Life Committee, Family Research Council, Christian Coalition and Concerned Women for America
The bill would make it an offense 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 be imprisoned for a maximum of a year.
The issue was brought to the public’s attention largely by the 1995 case of a Pennsylvania eighth-grader who was 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.
Twenty-two 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.
At the subcommittee meeting June 11, Rep. Ed Bryant, R.-Tenn., called the proposal a “common-sense bill for parents who ought to have control” in the medical procedures involving their minor daughters. Subcommittee chairman Charles Canady, R.-Fla., said normally only parents know the medical and psychological history of their children. “As a consequence, the health and well-being of the girl are threatened” when parents are not aware of their daughter’s abortion, Canady said.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D.-Calif., criticized the bill as a “thinly veiled attempt to chip away” at abortion rights.
Democratic opponents attempted nine amendments to the legislation, but all were defeated. The only amendment adopted was one by Canady clarifying the bill protects state laws that allow for the involvement of a legal custodian or a person “standing in loco parentis [in place of a parent].”
The bill is H.R. 3682 in the House and S. 1646 in Senate. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R.-Fla., is the lead sponsor in the House, and Sen. Spencer Abraham, R.-Mich., is the chief sponsor in the Senate.