- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

The House approved a bill yesterday that would make it a federal misdemeanor to take minors across state lines for abortions in circumvention of state laws requiring parental involvement in these decisions.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and sponsor of the bill, said the measure which passed the House 260-161 was needed desperately. "It will give back to parents the right to be a parent. It will strengthen family bonds," she said.
More than 30 states have laws requiring consent or notification of at least one parent before an abortion can be performed on a minor. But Republicans say minors routinely are transported to states that do not have parental-involvement laws so they can avoid their own states' requirements and obtain abortions without parental notification.
During floor debate, Republicans showed Yellow Page advertisements by abortion clinics announcing that their states did not require parental involvement.
"Where is the outrage on mass-marketed Yellow Page advertisements?" Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen asked. "The ads cry out, 'Come over here, no parental consent.'"
She and other Republicans pointed out that children cannot be given aspirin in school, play sports or take class trips without parental consent or notification, yet girls are taken across state lines for dangerous medical procedures that often have lasting effects.
"We should not be shutting the parent out," said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican.
But many Democrats said some girls come from troubled families, where incest or other abuse prevents them from telling their parents of a pregnancy. They said the bill would make it a crime for girls to turn to a trusted grandparent, older sibling or clergy for help in traveling to another state for an abortion.
"The real intent in this bill is not to protect young women who may be helped by a grandfather or a brother or a sister or a clergy person," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat. "The real intent of this bill is simply to try and stop her from having an abortion because the people in this House have determined that they're right and she's wrong."
He said the measure would make criminals of grandmothers, ministers and others who seek to help girls and would force minors to go unaccompanied to other states for abortions.
Republicans see it differently. They say most minors are not in the dramatic situations presented by Democrats.
"I don't think most Americans consider parents to be the enemy of their children," said Rep. John Hostettler, Indiana Republican.
"It is not a debate today about the right to get an abortion; it is about the right to be a parent," said Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican.
Democrats also argued the bill was unconstitutional because it would punish people for helping others do something considered legal in other states.
"Let the states make these decisions let us not butt in the federal government," said Mr. Nadler, whose home state of New York does not require parental notification for abortions.
Under the bill, violators could face fines of up to $100,000 and up to one year in prison. The girl and her parents would not be prosecuted and the bill would not apply if the abortion was needed to save the life of the minor.
During the past two sessions of Congress, the bill was approved in the House but died in the Senate.

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