Mar 012005
Authors: Sara Crocker

Proposed legislation may make it illegal to transport a minor across state lines to avoid the abortion parental-consent laws of her home state.

The bill, dubbed the Child Custody Protection Act in the U.S. Senate and the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, carries a sentence of up to one year in prison for those who are not the parent of a minor and transport her to another state to have an abortion performed.

Some critics of the bill worry about how it could impact the state.

"For Colorado in particular it would really have sweeping influence," said Daniel Kessler, public affairs coordinator for Planned Parenthood, noting the large population of women who come from out of state to have abortions performed. He said about 48 percent of women seeking abortions at Planned Parenthood, 825 South Shields St., come from Wyoming.

The bill's advocates say that it will ensure that parents are involved in their children's decisions.

"This bill is intended to promote and foster communication with the parent," said Phillip Hendrix, the director of Colorado Right to Life, an anti-abortion organization.

The bill for the past few years has been approved in the House of Representatives but never reached a vote in the Senate. This year it is on the Republicans' legislative agenda.

The bill has support from both parties, with 22 cosponsors in the Senate and 108 cosponsors in the House.

"I believe this legislation would close a loophole that has for too long allowed adults to help minors break state law by obtaining an abortion without parental consent, and also contributes to ending the life of an innocent child," wrote Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Littleton, in an e-mailed statement. "With 80 percent of the public in support of parental-notification legislation, and over 30 states already enacting similar laws, I am confident that this bill will get the full attention from the 109th Congress it deserves."

While many support the inclusion of parents in a minor's decision to have an abortion, some are skeptical about how it could impact a girl's relationships with other trusted adults.

"The government cannot mandate healthy, open family communication. Not everyone can talk to their parents, and it is those young people who most need the advice and assistance of a trusted family friend, clergy member or a sympathetic grandmother," wrote Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, in an e-mailed statement. "Requiring parental notification would force some young women to face a very tough decision alone, without any help."

Kessler agreed and said this bill would negate relationships with close relatives.

However, advocates still think it is necessary to have a parent help the minor make such a big decision.

"It's hard to believe that Coloradoans would support the status quo, where a minor who is forbidden to drink alcohol, to stay out past a certain hour or to get her ears pierced, is given the ability to make a life-altering, hazardous and potentially fatal decision, such as abortion, without the consultation or consent of at least one parent," Tancredo wrote.

But Kessler said the bill is unconstitutional and violates parts of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. He said if the bill passes it is likely there will be an uproar from abortion rights groups.

Hendrix disagreed and said the bill is sound.

"That's ridiculous," he said. "There's nothing in there that could be deemed unconstitutional."

The mixed opinion of the bill has not surprised some students.

"Anything that passes through Congress is going to have its compliments and its complaints," said Ashleigh McBeth, the president of the CSU Young Democrats.

McBeth, a senior political science major and a member of Pro Choice CSU, said she does not agree with the bill and would rather see the Republicans focus on sex education and work on preventing abortions.

Other students support the proposed law.

"I think that would be a great law because the parents need to know," said Lindsay Byers, a member of the CSU College Republicans. "The people that take them across state lines should be reprimanded for it and face the consequences."

Byers, a technical journalism major and assistant director of community affairs for the Associated Students of CSU, said she thought the law could be hard to enforce, but that it may make people think twice before they take someone across state lines.

McBeth said she was concerned about how the bill could impact people living in rural areas who cross state borders because it is more convenient.

"I think you should take in the rural factor," she said.

Colorado has a parental consent law in place. This states that both parents of the minor must be notified unless she claims she has been neglected or abused by them. This claim must be supported by a physician.

However, judicial bypass is available. A minor can go to court to sidestep the law, but Kessler said this can be time-consuming and the girl may be too far along in her pregnancy by the time she is granted the bypass.

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