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Public Statements

Hearing of House Subcommittee on the Constitution: Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


HEARING OF HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION: CHILD INTERSTATE ABORTION NOTIFICATION ACT

March 3, 2005

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Mr. Chabot. Good afternoon. The Committee will come to order. This is the Subcommittee on the Constitution. I would like to thank everyone for being here this afternoon for this very important legislative hearing.

Today, the House Constitution Subcommittee will examine H.R. 748, the ``Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act,'' commonly known as CIANA, which was recently introduced by my colleague, the distinguished gentlelady from Florida, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I would also like to thank Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen for her leadership on this issue.

CIANA's predecessor, the ``Child Custody Protection Act,'' also introduced by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, received broad support, passing the House on three separate occasions, including the 105th, 106th, and 107th Congresses. This hearing is the first step in ensuring that CIANA not only passes the House in the 109th Congress, but this time, it is enacted into law.

We have an expert panel with us here this afternoon and I would like to thank them for taking the time to share their knowledge and expertise with us.

Obtaining an abortion is a life-altering event, as we have heard and seen on numerous occasions. The medical, physical, and emotional impact on women can be long-lasting. CIANA would ensure that young girls who are seeking an abortion receive the care and support they need by enforcing existing State parental notification laws and providing for a Federal notification law that protects parental rights when a minor crosses State lines into a State without a notification law.

CIANA would make it a Federal offense to cause the circumvention of a valid State parental consent or notification law by knowingly transporting a minor across a State line with the intent that she obtain an abortion.

In addition, CIANA would build on the ``Child Custody Protection Act'' by also requiring that an abortion provider in a State without a parental involvement law notify a parent, or, if necessary, a legal guardian before performing an abortion on a minor girl who is a resident of a different State. This requirement would be applicable unless the minor has already received authorization from a judge in her home State, pursuant to a judicial bypass procedure, or unless she falls into one of the carefully drafted exceptions to cover cases of abuse or medical emergencies.

Statistics show that approximately 80 percent of the public favors parental notification laws. Forty-four States have enacted some form of a parental notification statute. Twenty-three of these States currently enforce statutes that require the consent or notification of at least one parent or court authorization before a young girl can obtain an abortion. Such laws reflect widespread agreement that the parents of a pregnant minor are best suited to provide counsel, guidance, and support as she decides whether to continue her pregnancy or to undergo an abortion.

Despite widespread support for parental involvement laws and clear public policy considerations justifying them, substantial evidence exists that such laws are regularly evaded by individuals who transport minors to abortion providers in States that do not have parental notification or consent laws.

Confused and frightened young girls are routinely assisted by adults in obtaining abortions and are encouraged to avoid parental involvement by crossing State lines. Often, these girls are guided by those who do not share the love and affection that most parents have for their children. Personal accounts indicate that sexual predators recognize the advantage they have over their victims and use this influence to encourage abortions in order to eliminate critical evidence of their criminal conduct, and in turn, allowing the abuse to continue undetected.

Furthermore, when parents are not involved in the abortion decisions of a child, the risks to the child's health significantly increase. Parental involvement will ensure that parents have the opportunity to provide abortion providers with the minor's complete medical history and necessary information prior to the performance of an abortion, information that may have life or death consequences for the minor. Parental involvement in the after-care of a minor's abortion procedure is also critical in preventing or curtailing complications, such as infection, perforation, or depression, which if left untreated can be fatal.

Public policy is clear that parents should be involved in decisions that their daughters make regarding abortion. CIANA will assist in enforcing existing parental involvement laws that meet the relevant constitutional criteria and will provide for parental involvement when minors cross State lines to have abortions in States without parental involvement laws. The safety of young girls and the rights of parents demand no less.

Again, I would like to thank our witnesses for being here today and I would now yield to the gentleman from New York, the Ranking Member, Mr. Nadler, for making an opening statement.

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Mr. Chabot. And now, the Members will have 5 minutes to ask questions and I yield myself 5 minutes for that purpose.

Mrs. Carroll, I will begin with you, if I can. I first of all just want to say that it is my clear opinion that you did everything you could under the existing law to protect your daughter, so there is no way that you are in any way responsible for this as far as I am concerned.

But let me ask you, do you think it is dangerous for young girls to be coerced into having an abortion by adults who may be trying to protect their own interests rather than the interests of the pregnant girl? For example, as a parent, is there information that you would have shared with the doctor, and did the clinic sufficiently ensure that your daughter would receive follow-up care?

Mrs. Carroll. No, they didn't. She received one piece of paper that said that she needed to make an appointment in 2 weeks for post-care with the blanks left open. They did not schedule that. When I did take her to her OB, he asked if there was a paper that they wanted sent in to clarify that she did get post-care and she said, no, there was nothing that was given.

Mr. Chabot. Do you think it is dangerous for a young girl to----

Mrs. Carroll. Yes. They had no idea--they didn't know if she was allergic to anything, what her medical history was. They had no clue about anything.

Mr. Chabot. Okay.

Mrs. Carroll. She told me that they talked to her for about 5 minutes and that was it.

Mr. Chabot. And you said your daughter is still going through difficulties psychologically with respect to this?

Mrs. Carroll. Yes.

Mr. Chabot. Thank you. Professor Myers, let me ask you, would you please discuss the similarities between CIANA and the ``Mann Act'' or other acts of Congress in which Congress has similarly utilized its Commerce Clause authority.

Mr. Myers. The Mann Act is a good example. That is just one of many instances where Congress has used its authority to regulate commerce. Clearly, transporting people across State lines has been interpreted as commerce among the several States and Congress has been viewed as well within its authority to achieve objectives that might undermine State laws by transporting people to a State for immoral purposes or other purposes that Congress objects to.

Here, what the Congress's basic objective seems to me is to try to reinforce the views of the home States, and in that sense, I think it is even clearer that it is permissible under the ``Mann Act'' line of cases.

Mr. Chabot. Thank you. Dr. Collett, let me ask you a question. Dr. Seigel had stated in his written testimony, I think also said this orally, that, quote, ``under CIANA, young women would be forced to put themselves in dangerous situations in order to receive medical care,'' unquote. But that is not really accurate, is it? CIANA clearly does not require parental notification in cases, for example, of abuse or neglect. What are your views about the points that Dr. Seigel made in that area?

Ms. Collett. Well, in fact, the bill has an express exception for a situation where the minor is willing to sign a written statement that she is a victim of sexual abuse, neglect, or physical abuse, and where the physician will notify the authorities specified to receive reports of child abuse.

In fact, in Manning v. Hunt, the Fourth Circuit specifically dealt with a similar requirement where judges in judicial bypass proceedings were required to report where a minor was seeking a bypass on the basis of potential abuse and the court said that the only people that would benefit from not having a reporting duty would be the potential abuser.

It is very similar to the case out in Arizona where Planned Parenthood accepted a young girl who was being sexually assaulted by her foster brother. She was impregnated. They secretly gave her an abortion, notified no one in the household, gave her the abortion, sent her back into the household. She was sexually assaulted again. She became pregnant a second time and was sent back for the second abortion. Finally, it was revealed, and they were sued and held civilly liable for the failure to report under the Arizona laws.

This has got an exemption, but it is a very sensible exemption that requires the physician to report.

Mr. Chabot. Thank you. Dr. Seigel, with the time I have remaining, you stated in your written testimony that under CIANA, minors will be forced to comply with parental notification laws and judicial bypass provisions in both her home State and the State where the abortion is to be performed, but that is not correct.

CIANA's first part penalizes a transporter who seeks to circumvent a State parental involvement law. It imposes no obligations on the minor. The second part of CIANA places a duty only on those abortion providers in States that do not have parental involvement laws, and if a minor presents the abortion provider with a court order she obtained from her own State court allowing her to bypass the parental involvement law, then the abortion provider does not have to give parental notice. So the bill simply doesn't require a minor to comply with multiple judicial bypass procedures. Do you disagree?

Dr. Seigel. I believe CIANA is detrimental to all patients. I think we are putting burdens on the patient, the young woman who needs to get adequate medical care.

The fact of the matter is, communication is already happening, and I would like to just take a moment, if I may, to express my disappointment in the medical community. I wanted to say to Mrs. Carroll that I am very sorry about what I heard happen to her daughter. It is an example of how the medical community has let you down, your daughter down, and your entire family.

I am concerned that when physicians are burdened with legalities, we will wind up spending more time learning about the legalities and the changing legalities of our laws and not spend the time that a physician should have spent with your daughter.

Mr. Chabot. My time is expired, but I would just, in response to that, say that it would seem that it wouldn't be particularly difficult to have a chart that would show the States in the surrounding area, what the laws are. It would seem that is the least that one should do when you are considering something as significant as terminating the unborn child that that girl is carrying, so----

Dr. Seigel. My understanding is it is not as simple as the color----

Mr. Chabot. We obviously just have to agree to disagree on that, and my time is expired.

I will now recognize the gentleman from New York.

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Mr. Chabot. All right. I want to thank the panel for coming here this afternoon. I think this testimony was very helpful. We want to, especially, Mrs. Carroll, thank you for appearing here this afternoon and we are very sorry for the experience that you and your family had in this matter. So again, we want to thank everyone for being here.

If there is no further business to come before the Committee, we are adjourned. Thank you.

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