Involving Parents, Protecting Minors
By Congressman Joe Pitts
Congress addressed a number of issues during its final days of legislative business before adjourning for election season. Among the most significant was the Child Custody Protection Act.
To understand the importance of this bill, consider the story of one Lancaster County family.
On a routine day in February, the mother of a 14-year-old girl gave her daughter two dollars for lunch money and saw her off to the bus stop to go to school. Not long before that day, the daughter had told her mom that she was pregnant. Her mom expressed her support, and she decided to keep the baby. In fact, after school that day, the girl planned to go to a prenatal class with her boyfriend.
This mother had no way of knowing that this day would turn out to be anything but routine for her young daughter.
The girl's boyfriend met her near the bus stop and called a taxi to take them to a train station. There they caught a train to Philadelphia and then took a subway ride to New Jersey.
In New Jersey, the boyfriend's family met the young couple and took them to an abortion clinic. Once at the clinic, the girl was brought to tears by her fear and confusion. When she said she was having second thoughts, the family told her that they would leave her in New Jersey if she didn't go through with it.
The family planned and paid for this girl's abortion, and used threats to convince her to go through with it, even when she expressed hesitation.
Like most people, I was heartbroken and outraged upon hearing this family's story. Yet current law provides little protection against such actions.
The Child Custody Protection Act passed by the House of Representatives recently would protect minor girls like the one in this story.
This legislation makes it a federal crime to transport a minor across state lines to have an abortion with the intent of evading parental consent or parental notification laws in the minor's home state. The bill also requires abortion practitioners in interstate abortions to provide notification of the minor's decision to her parents or legal guardian 24 hours before the abortion is performed.
It's a common sense measure that simply seeks to involve parents in one of the most important decisions their minor daughter may ever make. Kids need parental consent to go on field trips to museums or to have their ears pierced at the mall. It's not unreasonable to insist that parents be informed of their child's plan to have an abortion.
Furthermore, polling shows the great majority of Americans agree with the aims of this bill. While some issues surrounding abortion create controversy, polling shows 80 percent support for parental notification laws as well as laws designed to keep people from subverting notification requirements.
Fortunately, Americans haven't bought the lie that parents should have no say in these matters. The truth is that no one is in a better position to help a young girl sort through such an important decision than her parents. The Child Custody Protection Act recognizes that, and our children would be safer with it enacted into law.