CHILD CUSTODY PROTECTION ACT--Continued -- (Senate - July 25, 2006)
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I rise today in support of parents' most basic right and responsibility: to be actively involved in their children's lives, particularly in times of crisis. For that reason I wholeheartedly support S. 403, the Child Custody Protection Act.
I was an original co-sponsor of this bill when my good friend from Nevada, Senator Ensign, introduced it in 2005. S. 403 will make it a Federal offense to transfer a minor across State lines to obtain an abortion in order to evade a parental notification or parental consent law in the State in which the minor resides.
I am sure that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will agree with me that every abortion is a tragic occurrence. The weight of such a decision falls heavily on any woman, particularly a minor. That is exactly the time that a child should be able to rely on a parent's counsel. And that is exactly the time a parent has a responsibility to be a parent, and get involved in their child's life.
Let me stress that S. 403 will not impose any new law or requirement on any State. Nor does it alter or supersede any existing State laws. All that this bill will do is reinforce state laws that are already in effect, and prevent them from being evaded by miscreants who would transport a minor across State lines for an abortion and cut the parents out of their child's life at such a crucial time.
This bill will promote the health of pregnant teens by ensuring that their parents--the people best equipped to make major medical decisions, answer questions about medical history, and help their child through the physical and emotional recuperative process--are present. And the bill also contains an exception if an abortion is necessary to save the life of the minor.
There is already a national consensus in America that a parent should be involved when a minor girl faces such an important decision. Forty-five States have enacted laws recognizing the need for responsible adults to give guidance to minors in decisions about abortion. And 37 States have parental notification or parental consent laws, including Kentucky, which has the latter. What we are doing here is an entirely appropriate Federal role: reinforcing the States' power to pass and enforce laws which are entirely constitutional. When I say that the State law in question must be constitutional, that is also provided for in the bill. S. 403 will only reinforce a State law if that law has passed constitutional muster.
Some critics will claim that this bill will grant too much influence to parents in their children's lives, and that young girls ought to be able to go and get an abortion without talking to their mom or dad. I am a little surprised at that line of thinking. I think that, generally, it is a good thing for kids to talk to their parents and ask them for help when they need it. But in any event, we have laws that give parents a say in what their kids do for matters far less serious than abortion.
Twenty-seven States currently require parental consent--not just notification, but consent--before a child under age 18 can get a tattoo. And 27 States require parental consent before a child under age 18 can get a body piercing. So if the opponents of this bill had their way, a 14-year-old girl could evade State law to get an abortion--but not a tattoo.
Perhaps thousands of underage girls get taken across State lines for abortions every year. Studies have shown that the majority of these girls have male partners older than 20. Many of these men are committing statutory rape. These girls are in trouble and need the advice of a mom or a dad to help them out of their desperate situations. This Senate ought to take the side of the parents over the side of the criminals.
Throughout my career, I have consistently stood for protecting the unborn and promoting a culture of life. I don't like that people are spiriting young girls away from their parents to get them to have abortions, and evading State law to boot. If this law means fewer abortions in America, I will celebrate that.
But I want to stress to my colleagues who may take an opposing view that the central issue of the Child Custody Protection Act is parental rights. Parents ought to have the right to be heard at such a pivotal moment in the children's lives, and States ought to have the expectation that their duly passed laws ensuring just that are enforced.
What opponents of this bill forget is that no parent wants anyone to take their children across State lines--or even across the street--without their permission. This is a fundamental right, and the Congress is right to uphold it in law.
Not one girl should have to make a decision--or worse, be forced into a decision that she will regret for the rest of her life because her mom and dad weren't there to lean on. It is this Senate's responsibility to see that doesn't happen. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.