Senate Republicans are pushing forward with legislation, which lawmakers likely will start debating today, that would protect parents’ right to be involved in their teenage daughter’s abortion decision.
Republican leaders hope to vote on the bill next week. They’re trying to work out an agreement with Democrats on how long debate will last and how many amendments Democrats will be able to offer.
The last time the emotionally charged issue came before the Senate, in 1998, the bill failed to garner 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, and failed 54-45.
The legislation, which would make it a crime to knowingly skirt a state’s parental consent or notification law by taking a pregnant minor to another state to obtain an abortion, is putting Democrats in a tight spot, as evidenced by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s comments yesterday.
On one hand, Mr. Reid said that the bill is important and that Democrats want to debate it, not stall it. But he also said that there are much more important issues the Senate should be considering and that it’s “too bad” Republicans are taking time out for the bill.
“We have two weeks left,” said the Nevada Democrat, referring to the start of the chamber’s summer recess. “As important as people feel this issue is, how does it compare with what’s going on in Iraq, how does it compare with people trying to pay for gas prices?”
Republicans and Democrats continue to negotiate. Among the amendments Democrats want to offer is one that would exempt clergy from prosecution under the bill.
The Republican push for the bill comes as part of a long line of recent House and Senate votes on contentious social issues that excite their base in the run-up to the election — such as same-sex “marriage,” flag burning and the Pledge of Allegiance.
This bill would make it a federal crime to knowingly circumvent a state’s parental consent or notification law by taking an underage girl to another, more lenient state to help her obtain an abortion. Violators would face fines and up to one year in prison, unless the abortion was needed to save the girl’s life. The girl couldn’t be prosecuted.
Republicans said the legislation, which was approved by the House last year, is straightforward and widely supported.
“The Child Custody Protection Act would uphold the wishes of the vast majority of Americans who believe parents have the right to be involved in such a serious decision in their child’s life,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican.
Democrats said it’s a clear attempt to score more points with the Republican base and to provide cover for the 19 Republicans who just days ago voted for a highly contentious bill to expand federal funding of embryonic-stem-cell research.
“It’s obvious — this is a makeup vote for pro-life Republicans who voted for stem cells,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and minority whip.