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House Approves Parental Consent Bill

A bill (H.R. 476) that would prohibit the transportation of a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion and thereby evade parental consent laws was approved 260-161, by the House. The April 17 vote came after the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on March 20 (See The Source, 3/22/02).

The bill would make it a federal crime for individuals to transport a teen to another state to obtain an abortion and evade a state’s parental consent or notification law. The penalties for such a crime would include up to $100,000 in fines and a jail term up to one year. Currently, 27 states have laws that require at least one parent be notified or provide consent before a minor can obtain an abortion. In some states, minors may bypass parental notification of consent requirements if they can receive permission from a judge to obtain an abortion.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the bill’s sponsor, said, “Parental consent or parental notification laws may vary from state to state, but they are all made with the same purpose in mind, to protect frightened and confused adolescent girls from harm.”

Agreeing with Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) noted that when minors get into trouble, “parents should be there to help them learn the lessons that will keep them from getting into trouble again.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) said that the bill would not “encourage teens to talk to their parents.” Rather, it would make teenagers more likely to “seek unsafe, illegal abortions.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) argued that the bill would infringe on abortion rights and could be unfair to pregnant minors unable to seek parental consent. He added, “Many young women justifiably feel they would be physically or emotionally abused if forced to disclose their pregnancies to their parents.”

While Democrats wanted to amend the bill by including exemptions for grandparents, adult siblings, and other family members, as well as girls who become pregnant from incest or sexual abuse by a parent or guardian, no amendments were permitted. The Senate is not expected to consider the bill this year.

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