July 25, 2006

Senate backs curb on minors’ travel for abortion

By Joanne Kenen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Tuesday easily
passed a bill making it a crime to transport a pregnant minor
across state lines for an abortion to evade parental
notification rules in her home state.

The bill, approved 65-34, must be reconciled with the
version passed by the U.S. House of Representatives before it
goes to President George W. Bush, who strongly supports it.

"Transporting minors across state lines to bypass parental
consent laws regarding abortion undermines state law and
jeopardizes the lives of young women," Bush said in a

Backers of the legislation said that a minor cannot get an
aspirin from a school nurse without parental consent and
abortions should be subject to the rule.

They also said the bill would protect young girls from male
predators who could impregnate them and then arrange a secret
abortion to cover up their actions.

But critics said the bill hurts girls who are the most
vulnerable, including victims of incest or abuse.

"I think it will make them fearful. I think it will make
them feel alone," said California Democrat Barbara Boxer. "This
bill needs a lot more work."

Fourteen Democrats joined 51 Republicans in backing it.
Four Republicans joined 29 Democrats and one independent in
voting against it.

The House has passed similar legislation at least four
times since 1998, but opponents had maneuvered to keep it from
a vote in the Senate. However, Senate anti-abortion forces
gained strength in the 2004 elections and Republican leaders
pushed to bring up the bill before this November's
congressional elections.

Polls have found parental notification laws are popular
with voters, including some who favor legal abortion.

According to Senate Republicans, at least 37 of the 50
states require parental notification or consent before an
underage girl can get an abortion. Another eight states have
passed laws that have been invalidated or are being contested.

This measure would make it illegal for anyone, including an
aunt or grandmother, to help a pregnant minor cross state lines
to circumvent those rules. The adult could be fined and face up
to a year in prison. Unlike the House, the Senate bill does not
hold doctors liable. Neither version changes any state laws.

New Jersey Democrats Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez
tried to add an amendment to expand sex education including
both abstinence and contraception to reduce teen pregnancies
but it was defeated, 48-51.

The Senate did accept a bipartisan amendment limiting
rights of a father who through incest had impregnated his

The anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee, which
strongly supports the legislation, said circumvention of state
notification laws was widespread." Indeed, many abortion
clinics advertise across state lines, using 'no parental
notification' as a selling point," the group said.

Abortion rights groups said dubbed the law the "Teen
Endangerment Act." The American Civil Liberties Union said the
bill could "restrict a young woman's ability to obtain an
abortion outside her home state even in a medical emergency."