Politics & Policy

This One’s for the Girls

Doing it for the children.

I already picked on a Congressional Quarterly piece elsewhere on NRO today, so I hesitate to pile on; but this one’s just too infuriating to leave alone.

In a piece Monday, “Senate Set for Parental Notification Debate; Measure Appears Likely to Pass,” reporter Keith Perine begins: 

The Republican Party’s incremental strategy on restricting abortion rights will be on display again in the Senate this week, as lawmakers debate a bill that would make it a federal crime to take minors across state lines to obtain abortions in order to circumvent state parental notification and consent laws.

 Any reasonable person reading that setup could easily be forgiven for thinking that Republicans are taking away a right. In truth it’s no right reasonable people want anyone to have.

The Child Custody Protection Act, up today in the Senate, would make it a federal crime to take a minor across state lines to avoid a state’s laws requiring parental consent or notification before she has an abortion. The bill has been passed in the House now three times and at last is likely to pass in the Senate and become law.

Despite attempts by senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to weaken the bill, few are likely to go to the mattresses defending people’s — including statutory rapists’ — rights to drive a child to another state for an abortion so her parents don’t find out she is pregnant. Few are likely to fight against parents’ rights too vocally.

Still, such seemingly no-brainer fights are instructive. NARAL Pro-Choice America warns that the bill would “endanger” “young women.” Of chief concern for the National Organization for Women is that the legislation “restricts a young woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.”

If you want the real feminist position–the one that has these girls’ best interest in mind, and preserves parental rights — look to Feminists for Life. In an e-mail Monday, they implore the Senate to pass the bill:  

“It is all too common for sex predators to seek vulnerable young girls—and when a pregnancy results, abortion has been used to cover up their crime,” said FFL President Serrin M. Foster. “Without the input of a custodial adult, teens risk their health. Will a sex predator ensure she takes her antibiotic as directed after surgery?

“Boyfriends are typically no more helpful,” said Foster. “Do we really believe that he will take her take her promptly to the hospital if she hemorrhages? What if she becomes septic?”

Fifteen year-old Tamia Russell died in 2004 as a result of an abortion performed in the sixth month of her pregnancy. The sister of Russell’s 24 year-old boyfriend drove her to obtain the abortion, for which her boyfriend paid. Russell’s mother was not informed before the procedure, and misinformation from the clinic led to Russell’s death from sepsis. (Read Tamia’s story in the Spring 2004 issue of The American Feminist.)

‘“How many teenagers have to die before we protect them and give them the resources and support they need?” Foster asked. “Teenage girls who are too afraid to tell their parents will put their health on the line when they experience complications from an abortion—and those who prey on teens know it.”

Dr. Bruce Lucero, a pro-choice advocate who performed more than 45,000 abortions, lobbied alongside Foster in support of the bill when CCPA was first introduced. “[I]n most cases,” he wrote to the New York Times in 1998, “a parent’s input is the best guarantee that a teen-ager will make a decision that is correct for her…. And it helps guarantee that if a teen-ager chooses an abortion, she will receive appropriate medical care.” Teenagers seeking abortions out of state, Lucero noted, often delay until the procedure is more expensive and riskier, and they are less likely to return to clinics for follow-up care or tell their parents they are suffering complications.

“The best interest of girls and the rights of parents are not at odds here,” Foster said. “That’s why the majority of Americans favor laws supporting parental notification, and laws prohibiting the transportation of minors across state lines by those who wish to usurp the law. The health and safety of girls across the land is at stake here,” she added. “We need the Senate to pass the Child Custody Protection Act.”

The “best interest of girls and the rights of parents” were a preeminent theme at a Susan B. Anthony List press conference on Capitol Hill earlier this month — the first all-pro-life House women’s press conference ever, according to participants. Also at the presser was Marcia Carroll, a Pennsylvania mom whose daughter was taken to another state by her boyfriend’s family for an abortion that she and her family would come to regret.

A Women’s Law Project guide to teen abortions instructs girls which states are best for underage, parent-free abortions.

Going to another state

New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C., permit young women to consent on their own to an abortion without requiring parents to be notified. Maryland, Deleware, and West Virginia allow doctors to perform abortions without notifying a young woman’s parent or guardian if the doctor finds that the young woman is mature, that it would not be in the young woman’s best interests to involve her parent or guardian, or that other specific circumstances apply. Ohio law, like Pennsylvania’s, requires the written consent of a parent or guardian or a determination by a judge that the young woman is mature and well-enough informed to make the abortion decision or that the abortion is in the young woman’s best interest…. 

Reasonable people who disagree on some of the basic issues of abortion can look at the Child Custody Protection Act and agree on it. Unfortunately, for some it is always about abortion — protecting it, instead of protecting teenage children and their parents’ rights to parent them.

 — Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

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