- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill yesterday that would make it a federal offense to take minors across state lines for abortions, a tactic teen-agers use to circumvent parental involvement in abortion decisions.
Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Constitution subcommittee, said the bill aims to "protect the health and safety of young girls and a parent's rights to be involved in the medical decisions of a minor daughter."
More than 30 states have laws requiring consent or notification of at least one parent before an abortion can be performed on a minor. Mr. Chabot said minors are routinely transported to states that do not have parental-involvement laws so they can avoid their own states' requirements and obtain abortions without parental involvement.
He and other supporters of the bill which passed the panel on a party-line vote of 19-6 said it would protect states' rights by ensuring that each state's policy aims regarding this issue are not frustrated.
But Democrats said the bill is unconstitutional and would wrongly punish caring family members and friends for doing what is perfectly legal in states like New York, where parental involvement is not required.
"The federal government has no business prosecuting people for doing what we have decided is appropriate and legal in our state," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat.
Mr. Nadler and other Democrats also argued that the bill ignores situations in which the youngster does not have a safe, loving home and must turn instead to a trusted clergyman, teacher or friend for help.
Democrats offered an amendment stating the bill would not apply in situations in which a teen's pregnancy was the result of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or other family member.
"These are complicated cases of individual people in agony and pain," said Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat.
Republicans said in such situations, minors can often use a judicial bypass, by which they seek permission from a judge instead of their parents. The amendment was defeated on a party-line vote of 16-12.
Democrats also tried unsuccessfully to exempt grandparents, siblings and taxicab drivers from prosecution under the bill.
A fight erupted in the afternoon, when Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, reconvened the meeting before most Democrats had returned from a House floor vote. By the time most Democrats got back to the meeting, Mr. Sensenbrenner had moved to a final vote on the bill.
Democrats protested, saying the move prevented them from offering their two remaining amendments.
They said the chairman broke an agreement made earlier in the day in which Democrats agreed to limit their amendments.
"This was bad faith," said Mr. Nadler. "We were cooperating. We limited the number of amendments, and he pulls this."
"If you want us to be disruptive, we know how to do that," threatened an angry Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat.
Under the bill, violators would face fines, up to one year in prison, or both. 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.
The House has approved the bill in the past two Congresses but both times it has died in the Senate.
Mr. Nadler predicted this year will be no different and the bill is "not going anywhere" in the Senate.


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