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House Committee Approves Abortion 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 by a party line vote of 19-6 by the House Judiciary Committee. The March 20 vote came after the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution approved the bill on February 7 (See The Source, 2/8/02)

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) said that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), “seeks to protect the health and safety of young girls, and a parent’s right to be involved in the medical decisions of a minor daughter, by preventing validly enacted and constitutionally sound state parental involvement laws from being circumvented.”

Disagreeing with Rep. Chabot, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said, “The federal government should not enable one state to hold another state’s citizens hostage.”

The bill would make it a federal crime for anyone transporting a teen to another state to obtain an abortion if a parent had not first consented to the procedure in the home state if that state requires parental consent. The penalties for such a crime would include up to $100,000 in fines and a jail term up to one year. Currently, 23 states have laws that require that 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.

Three amendments were defeated by the committee, including:

  • An amendment by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) that would have provided an exception in cases where the pregnancy was the result of incest. It was defeated, 6-12.
  • An amendment by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) that would have allowed grandparents or adult siblings to take a pregnant girl to another state without parental consent. It was defeated, 12-16.
  • An amendment by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) that would have excluded bus and cab drivers from the criminal penalties. The amendment failed on a voice vote.

 

Democrats did not offer two additional amendments–one to establish an intent standard and one to exempt clergy from the bill’s provisions–after Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) called for a roll call vote before most of the bill’s opponents had returned from a floor vote. Although Rep. Nadler acknowledged that these amendments would have been rejected, Rep. Waters called the forced vote, “an abuse of power.” The House has approved the Child Custody Protection in the past; however it has yet to be approved by the Senate.

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