House Passes Parental Notification Bill

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill requiring girls under 18 to notify their parents before traveling to another state for an abortion.

The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (H.R. 748), sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), passed Wednesday on a bipartisan vote of 270-157.

John Ensign (R-Nev.) introduced a similar parental notification bill in the Senate, but Democrats who oppose the measure have blocked it, much to the dismay of pro-life groups.

"It is outrageous that the Senate Democratic caucus has thrown up procedural obstacles to block parental notification legislation, despite numerous polls showing 75 percent or more of the public supports requiring parental notification," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

In a national poll of 1,000 adults conducted April 21-24 by The Polling Company, Inc., respondents were asked, "Do you agree or disagree that a person should be able to take a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion without her parents' knowledge?

According to the NLRC, 82 percent of those polled disagreed (including 75 percent who "strongly disagreed" and 7 percent who "somewhat disagreed"), while only 15 percent agreed (including 7 percent who "strongly agreed" and 8 percent who somewhat agreed).

About half of the states currently have parental notification or consent laws on the books, but pro-life groups say minors often get around those laws by going to other states that don't have parental notification requirements.

The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) would make it a federal offense to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion if it is done to evade a state parental involvement law, unless a state court has issued a waiver.

In addition, the CIANA requires abortionists to notify a parent before performing an abortion on a minor who is a resident of another state, unless the minor already has received authorization from a court in her home state.

If the minor says she is the victim of sexual abuse, the abortionist would notify the appropriate state child abuse agency instead of a parent.

The NRLC said it is pleased that the House rejected amendments that would have empowered in-laws, siblings, religious counselors, godparents, cousins, and others to authorize out-of-state abortions and even to transport a minor out of state without the knowledge of either parent.

"Congress should protect parental rights, not codify parental circumvention," the NRLC said in a letter to Congress.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) co-sponsored the bill and hailed its passage on Wednesday:

"However divided our nation may be on protecting the unborn, we all agree that we cannot overlook the safety of a pregnant girl and the right her parents have to protect her," DeLay said in a press release.

"If we don't allow a school nurse to give a child an aspirin without her parent's consent, how on earth can we allow a stranger to take that same child across state lines for an invasive medical procedure without her parents even knowing about it?" he asked. "If we all forget the politics for a second and take a deep breath, we'll see clearly this is just common sense."

Critics of the bill, including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, call it a federal intrusion into family decision-making.

'Family restriction act'

"In an ideal world, parents and children would always have open communication about sensitive matters like sexual and reproductive health," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America Interim President Karen Pearl.

"But we do not live in an ideal world, and neither do many teens. This bill betrays a frightening lack of compassion for teens whose lives are not picture-perfect.

"When a family is facing a tough situation, the last thing they need is their representatives interfering in their private, personal decision making. Parents need support - not laws that criminalize family members for helping teens get access to good medical care."

Planned Parenthood said in the real world, parental involvement is not always in a minor's best interests, especially if a girl becomes pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

"This bill is not only ill-advised, it is unconstitutional," Pearl said, because it contains no health exception.

"The law also violates basic principles of federalism by imposing a federal parental notification requirement on the 27 states that have made public policy judgments to the contrary."

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