House subcommittee hearing focuses on minor interstate abortion law

By Michelle Bauman

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House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution hearing March 8, 2012.

Witnesses at a recent House subcommittee hearing supported legislation that would prohibit transporting minors across state lines to obtain an abortion if doing so circumvents parental involvement laws in the minor’s home state.

Parental involvement laws “improve medical treatment of pregnant minors” and should be supported by everyone, regardless of where they stand on abortion, said Teresa Stanton Collett, law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.

Collett began her remarks by saying that the proposed legislation is constitutional, and based on her scholarly study of parental involvement laws, will benefit pregnant minors in multiple ways.

"There is widespread agreement that as a general rule, parents should be involved in their minor daughter’s decision to terminate an unplanned pregnancy," she said.

Collett noted parental involvement laws give parents the opportunity “to provide additional medical history and information” that may be important in performing an abortion. These laws also allow parents to have the knowledge necessary to “recognize and respond to any post-abortion complication that may develop,” she said.

Dr. Michael J. New, who teaches political science at The University of Michigan, also testified at the hearing, arguing that the law would result in “both fewer abortions and better public health outcomes for teen girls.”

New pointed to research showing that “state level parental involvement laws reduce the in-state abortion rate for minors.”

In addition, he offered evidence that parental involvement laws reduce rates of teenage pregnancy, the spread of some sexually-transmitted diseases and suicide rates among 15 to 17-year old females.

He explained that the proposed legislation would further these positive results by making state parental involvement laws more difficult to circumvent and therefore “more effective.”

The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act was the subject of a March 8 hearing before the House Constitution Subcommittee.

The act, which currently has 153 co-sponsors in the House, was introduced by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

It would prohibit “taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions.”

The proposed law, which includes an exemption for cases of medical emergency, abuse and neglect, would punish the individuals who transport minors across state lines, as well as physicians who knowingly perform such abortions on minors from other states.

Opponents of the law have argued that it places minors in danger from angry parents who may become abusive when they find out about their child’s pregnancy.

However, Collett pointed out, parental involvement laws are on the books in 45 of the 50 states – some for more than 30 years – and yet “there is no case where it has been established that these laws led to parental abuse or to self-inflicted injury.”

She argued that the legislation would also help ensure that instances of statutory rape are properly reported, as numerous abortion facilities have been shown to be hesitant to do so.

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen said that her legislation is “critical” to ensuring “that parental rights are upheld, while promoting the inherent dignity of the unborn.

“At such a vulnerable time in a young girl’s life, she deserves to have the guidance and love of her family,” she said. “Minors should not be ferried across state lines by those who would wish to deny parents of their right to be involved in their children’s lives.”

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