“Protection” Bill Endangers Teens
July 24, 2006WMC Exclusive: “Protection” Bill Endangers Teens By Amy BryantJuly 24Last week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) announced he would bring to the floor what pro-choice advocates call a dangerous and divisive bill, the Child Custody Protection Act (CCPA). The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on the legislation, a version of which has already passed the House of Representatives. CCPA would make it a federal crime for an adult other than the parent to accompany a minor across state lines for abortion services, if the teenager has not complied with parental notification requirements. Far from protecting teens, the bill would punish those most vulnerable to restrictions on abortion. Frist’s motives are decidedly political, says Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Widely expected to run for the presidency in 2008, Frist is using a divisive issue to “repair his relations with a base angered by his inability to pass their extreme legislative agenda” and to “buck up sagging White House poll numbers,” she says. Because 87 percent of U.S. counties lack an abortion provider, the nearest facility may be out of state and miles away from a teenager seeking services. The proposed legislation would make criminals out of those who would help her, including clergy members, counselors, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts. If prosecuted they could face a year in prison, heavy fines, and civil lawsuits. The bill’s insistence that a teen comply with any notification laws in both states would only burden the minor and create delays in a time-sensitive situation. In a country with differing state laws governing the purchase of firearms, licensing of drivers, and numerous other issues, CCPA singles out abortion unfairly in an effort to discourage young women from exercising their rights. Pro-choice advocates also argue that the proposed law is unconstitutional because it contains no exception for situations when a teen’s health may be threatened by delays it would cause .If CCPA becomes law, many young women will be forced to make decisions about an unplanned pregnancy without the support of a trusted adult. Even in states without laws requiring notification, research shows that most teenagers do involve at least one parent in their decision to have an abortion. Those that do not often have compelling reasons. A 1991 study by Stanley K. Henshaw and Kathryn Kost concluded that nearly one-third of young women who did not tell their parents of their abortions had histories of family violence or feared that they would be thrown out of their homes. Susan Yolen, vice president of public affairs at Connecticut Planned Parenthood, is concerned that the law will have a “chilling effect” on doctors, tending to deny a young person’s access to abortion wherever she lives. Since many minors do not have driver’s licenses, she says, clinics may not be able to verify their legal residences. While Connecticut does not restrict minors seeking abortion services, Massachusetts and Rhode Island do mandate parental involvement. “My fear is that doctors will stop providing abortions to teens because they fear losing their livelihoods," Yolen says.