House Passes Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act

On April 27, by a vote of 270 to 157, the House passed the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (H.R. 748), which makes it illegal to transport a minor girl to another state for an abortion without notifying her parents or legal guardian.

“Across the country, medical personnel and others must obtain parental consent before performing routine medical services such as providing aspirin or including children in certain activities such as field trips and contact sports,” said House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.), a supporter of the bill. “Yet, today, people other than parents can secretly take children across state lines in violation of parental notification laws for abortion without their parents even knowing about it.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R.-N.J.), a staunch pro-lifer, gave an impassioned speech in favor of the bill.

“Abortion mills in my home state of New Jersey go so far as to buy ads, especially in the yellow pages, to promote abortion for minors residing in Pennsylvania, where parental consent is required for abortion, to come to my state, where no parental involvement of any kind is needed,” said Smith. “The marketing of teenage abortions in this way . . . is morally indefensible. The abortion industry’s engraved invitation to vulnerable young girls to procure a secret abortion means it becomes more likely and that more abortions will indeed occur.”

Several Democrats spoke against the amendment, arguing that a requirement that parents know their daughters are having abortions is unreasonable and out of the mainstream.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D.-N.Y.) weighed in against the bill. “We consider today legislation that is at once another flagrant violation of the Constitution and an assault on the health and well-being of young women and their health care providers,” said Nadler. “I know of no law that has attempted to do this kind of thing since the Fugitive Slave Act of the 1850s. This bill would make criminals of grandparents, boyfriends, brothers, sisters and clergymen and women who try to help a young woman, a young woman who had a fear or alienation and thinks she cannot confide in her parents.”

 “For myriad reasons, many adolescents and young adults cannot turn to their parents with a problem like this,” said Rep. Diane DeGette (D.-Colo.).

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R.-Fla.), disagreed. “This legislation will put an end to the abortion clinics and family planning organizations that exploit young, vulnerable girls by luring them to recklessly disobey state laws,” she said.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R.-Pa.) read the testimony of one Pennsylvania mother from the House floor. “On February 16th, I sent my daughter to her bus stop with $2 of lunch money,” the woman testified. “I thought she was safe at school. She and her boyfriend had a prenatal class scheduled after school . . . However, what really happened was that boyfriend and his family met with her down the road from the bus stop, called a taxi, they put the children on a train from Lancaster to Philadelphia. From there they took two subways to New Jersey. That is where his family met the children and took them to the abortion clinic. When my daughter started to cry and have second thoughts, they told her that they would leave her in New Jersey. They planned, paid for, coerced, harassed and threatened her into having the abortion. They left her alone during the abortion and went to eat lunch.”

A “yes” vote was a vote in favor of the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which forbids the transport of minor girls to another state in order to circumvent state parental notification laws regarding abortion. A “no” vote was a vote against the bill.