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Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

Congress Should Make Secret Abortions Illegal


Parents are protective of their children. This is not a learned behavior; it is innate. So when a parent learns his or her daughter has had major surgery, say, an open-heart operation or removal of a cancerous growth without being told — and has been transported across state lines to have it done — indignation and concern are fully warranted.

But some on the left want to keep parents and guardians in the dark regarding just such a significant procedure: abortion. Why? Because for abortion absolutists, access to abortion trumps the health of young women and the rights and responsibilities of parents.

Currently, transporting a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion is legal in the United States, but if enacted, new legislation would protect young women from these scenarios, which frequently involve secret and coerced abortion.

Last month, the House Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing about the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA, H. R. 2299). The measure was introduced by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) and has a companion bill in the Senate authored by Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.).

This is not just about abortion: it’s about women’s health. For example, a mother from Pennsylvania testified before Congress a few years ago that her 14-year-old daughter became pregnant by an older boyfriend. The young teenager wanted to have the baby, but found herself in a horrific situation where she was pressured by the boy and his family into aborting the baby.

Pennsylvania requires that a parent provide consent prior to an adolescent having an abortion. Rather than inform her mother however, the boyfriend’s family picked up the minor from her school-bus stop and transported her to New Jersey, a state where she would not need her parents’ signature to obtain an abortion. When the young woman expressed hesitation and second thoughts about the abortion, the boyfriend’s family threatened to leave her in New Jersey with no money for her safe return.  Lacking the support necessary to make a truly free decision, the young woman acquiesced and aborted her baby.

According to University of St. Thomas law professor Teresa Collet, many adolescent pregnancies are the outcome of statutory rape and coercion. In recent congressional testimony, she cited numerous studies revealing that most teenage mothers become pregnant by men over the age of 20. For example, in the state of California men who are 25 and older have fathered more children born to teenage mothers than males under the age of 18.

Sadly, abortion advocates claim that such a law is about limiting access to abortion. Yet, in reality, the bill does three things, all in the best interest of young women:

1) CIANA makes illegal the transporting of a minor from one state to another without parental involvement as required by the young woman’s home-state law.

2) CIANA would compel abortion providers to comply with the young woman’s home-state laws related to parental notification or consent.

3) In the case that the abortion is being performed out of state, CIANA would require that the parents of the minor receive 24-hour notice prior to the procedure.

CIANA also includes two exceptions for situations when the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse by a parent as well as when the teenager’s life is at risk due to the pregnancy. Most agree that CIANA is a commonsense law and will protect and benefit female minors and their families.

Fully 45 states have passed laws related to parental consent or notification, and these states have the support of the public. A Pew poll from 2009 revealed that even among those who support abortion, 71 percent support parental-consent laws. Similarly, a more recent Gallup poll from July 2011 reported that 71 percent of Americans support parental-consent laws.

In a country where anyone under the age of 18 needs to obtain parental permission to have his or her ears pierced, our legislators should easily pass the commonsense CIANA through both the House and the Senate, and the president should sign the bill into law.

No parent should ever have to learn of a young woman’s being coerced into having an abortion. And our young women deserve more protection than a seat belt and a late night car ride into another state.

— Jeanne Monahan is director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. Robert Schwarzwalder is senior vice president of the Family Research Council.


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