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Public Statements

Senator Edward M. Kennedy Statement on the Child Custody Protection Act

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SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY STATEMENT ON THE CHILD CUSTODY PROTECTION ACT

The bill considered today raises serious questions about the principles of federalism and a woman's right to choose. It also raises the very real possibility of increasing the health risks of abortion for young women.

This bill would create a broad new criminal and civil liability for anyone other than a parent - including a grandparent, aunt, adult sibling or religious counselor - who accompanies a young woman across state lines to receive abortion services if the home state's parental-involvement law has not been met.

In the past, supporters of such legislation claimed that one of its primary goals was to support the enforcement of state law. But the law is likely to have the opposite effect by extending restrictive state laws into states that have refused to adopt such laws themselves. As a result, a state law requiring parental involvement would have to be applied by states that allow notification to family members other than a parent and to states that do not require any notice.

The bill also imposes an undue burden on a woman's constitutionally protected right to choose. Young women who are reluctant to tell their parents about an unwanted pregnancy - whether because they are victims of familial abuse or incest, because they lack a relationship of trust with their parents, or even because they fear they have let their parents down - will be forced to "go it alone" in seeking an abortion in a nearby state. Some young women may turn to "back alley" abortions, rather than seek professional assistance in a neighboring state. In other cases, the bill would force young women who seek to comply with the law to abide by parental notification proceedings in two states - her home state and the state where she seeks an abortion - without the help of an adult.

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