CHILD CUSTODY PROTECTION ACT--Continued -- (Senate - July 25, 2006)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I rise in strong support of the Child Custody Protection Act. I congratulate the majority leader for scheduling time for this important piece of legislation, as well as Senator Ensign for the terrific work he is doing in managing the legislation as the author of the bill.
This is very important legislation. It has been described many times so I won't go into detail. What we are trying to do is protect children from being taken across State lines to avoid parental involvement laws. As a father of six children, two daughters, I believe parents should be involved in the health care decisions of minor children. I am not alone in that regard. The vast majority of Americans believe in parental consent laws when it comes to having abortion procedures done on minors, that parents should be involved in that decision.
The Senator from Illinois described situations that are certainly the exception rather than the rule. When those exceptions arise, in all of the States there is a judicial bypass. The Senator from Illinois described some pretty horrific circumstances of incest or rape. Here you have a situation where if we don't have this law, the rapist or the person who committed the incest against this minor child could take that child across State lines, never report it to the police, have the abortion done, and the parents never know about it. Nobody knows about it, and the child is back in the home and potentially in the same threatening environment the child was in in the first place. At least under our parental consent laws and with this statute, if we are successful, the court can get involved. We can remove that child from the dangerous situation.
I don't know why allowing someone surreptitiously to avoid state parental consent laws is a benefit to the child. If anything, it is the opposite. That is not a rational reason for objecting to this statute.
Again, I suggest the American public overwhelmingly feels the same way. Parents deserve and should have the ability to be consulted and notified or give consent, depending on the State, to a medical procedure as severe and serious as an abortion.
If you look at the poll question, do you agree or disagree that a person should be able to take a minor girl across State lines to obtain an abortion without her parents' knowledge--this isn't consent, it is just knowledge--15 percent agree, 15 percent agree with that statement that she should be able to be transported across State lines; 82 percent disagree. They said people should not be able to take a child across State lines without the knowledge of their parents. Seventy-five percent strongly disagree with the current state of the law which is you can transport children across State lines in order to circumvent state parental involvement laws.
In Pennsylvania, all of the surrounding states but the State of Ohio have weaker laws on parental involvement than the State of Pennsylvania. So a child in the northwestern part of our State can go up to New York or, in the eastern part of the State, New Jersey or Delaware or, in the southern part of our State, Maryland, West Virginia, all of which have laws that are not as favorable to parents and children as Pennsylvania with respect to consent.
This is, unfortunately, not a hypothetical for those of us in Pennsylvania. There are cases, unfortunate cases of children being taken by a boyfriend or his family members across State lines and the horrible consequences that result.
We also have abortion clinics from other States that advertise in Pennsylvania. There are a couple of ads I will put up on the board. This is northeastern Pennsylvania. Scranton is there, up near the New York border. Here in the Scranton Yellow Pages is the All Women's Health and Medical Services in White Plains, NY, a toll free number; ``We are here if you need us.'' This is, again, advertising in White Plains, NY, which is not that close to Scranton. It is at least 50 miles away. And it talks about no consent, no waiting period. There is a parental consent provision in the Pennsylvania statute that was upheld as constitutional back in 1992. There is a 24-hour waiting period. Again, the clinic is advertising no consent, no waiting period, directly aimed at minors in Pennsylvania urging them to come and have abortions at their clinic across the State line.
Here is another one. This is at the other end of the State, the southern part of our State. This is the Yellow Pages in Lancaster. Atlantic Women's Medical Services, Inc., no parental consent, 16 years and older. The Pennsylvania law is 18 years of age. So if you are 16, 17, they require no consent; again, directly targeted at a State, encouraging women and others to bring young women across the State line for abortions. They advertise abortions to 24 weeks, the abortion pill, low fees, all trying to make sure these young girls know that abortions are available without consent.
This is not a hypothetical. This is direct marketing to minors, direct marketing in the Yellow Pages to minors who are desperate and, in many cases, afraid and feel alone. They are marketing to these vulnerable children to get them to not talk to their parents but to come and get an abortion out of State, against their State laws. This is, again, not just a hypothetical but a real-life situation. And which I will share a case.
We had a case in Lancaster, PA, which began on Christmas Eve, 2004. A 14-year-old told her mother she was pregnant. The parents were prepared to be supportive, to help that child in whatever decision she made and in scheduling appointments with doctors, counselors, and other programs that could help this child get through this very difficult situation. The daughter chose to have the baby and raise it with the love and support of her family.
But the boyfriend's family didn't like the young girl's decision and began to harass and coerce the girl and her family in order to intimidate her into getting an abortion. The mother called the local police for advice and even called an abortion clinic to see how old you needed to be to have an abortion in Pennsylvania because she was afraid that her daughter might be pressured toward an abortion. She was told the daughter needed to be 16 though that was actually incorrect because she needed to be 18 to have an abortion without consent. Therefore, her mother thought she was protected.
That wasn't the case. In mid-February, she sent her daughter off to school, but the daughter never made it there. Her boyfriend's family met her and her boyfriend down the road, put them in a cab and then on a train, and then a subway to New Jersey, where his family met them and took them to an abortion clinic where one of them had made an appointment. The young girl had second thoughts, but she was told they would leave her in New Jersey if she didn't undergo an abortion.
After the abortion, the family of the boyfriend, who may have been attempting to conceal the evidence of his statutory rape, drove her back to Pennsylvania. Again, this left the young woman completely unprotected with the state not being able to go after this young man and his family for taking her across state lines for an abortion. That is what it seems was behind the parents trying to get rid of this child. This is a situation which should not happen. We have State laws that protect children and parents and their rights to be able to nurture and help their children along the way.
This was a difficult circumstance, and as I said before, there are, unfortunately, others. We even have in the State of Pennsylvania organizations outside of these legal clinics that are trying to give advice and help to minor children on evading the parental consent laws. There is an organization called the Women's Law Project. It says here in their publication, ``Is it legal for teen-aged women to cross State lines to get an abortion?'' This is a document which is handed out and given to young women to help them avoid the State laws that are in place for parental consent. It says:
Yes. However, the adult may risk a charge of interfering with the custody of a minor. Adults who are accompanying young women under 14 to out-of-State abortion providers should contact a lawyer for the Women's Law Project.
So if you are over 14 years of age, they assure you that you can go to an abortion clinic out of State. If you are under 14, your accompanying adult may have to call our lawyers to take care of the situation.
This is a real-world situation, a problem we are confronted with in this country. All we are trying to do is let the State laws, the collective wisdom of the people of Pennsylvania, have effect, have efficacy; that the laws which are put in place are there to protect children and the rights of parents. The only one that can stop others from getting around those protections and avoiding State laws is the Federal Government, by stopping the interstate transportation of these children for the purpose of abortion.
So this is a vitally important piece of legislation for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is one in which I am hopeful that 75 or 80 percent of the Senate will agree with when it is all said and done because it is vitally important, for the health of our children and for the stability of families, to give families and children this legal protection. That is what we are doing. That is what these States have done--given legal protection from further abuse of minors who find themselves in a situation where they are pregnant and under, obviously, a horrible situation in their lives. They need their parents. Where the parents are the problem or a threat to them, there is a judicial bypass. We have in place safeguards where parents are the problem, which, again, is a minority of situations. We do have protections in place.
Mr. DURBIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. SANTORUM. Yes.
Mr. DURBIN. The bill creates a civil cause of action the parents can bring. Does the Senator from Pennsylvania believe that in one of those rare, tragic cases of incest and the father is the reason for the incest, he should be allowed to bring a civil cause of action against the person who has transported the victim?
Mr. SANTORUM. The Senator from Nevada has an amendment which is going to take care of that situation. I will defer to him, if he would like to answer that question on how the amendment would work to preclude that problem.