ACLU Urges House of Representatives to Reject “Teen Endangerment Act”

September 26, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today called upon the House of Representatives to reject S. 403, the “Teen Endangerment Act,” dubbed the “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act” by its supporters. The bill would put the most vulnerable teens at risk and delay teens from getting the care and counseling they need, the ACLU warned.

“More than anything, we want our teens to be safe. By passing this legislation, Congress would succeed only in further endangering already at-risk teenagers,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The reality is that the parents of most teens seeking abortions are aware of their daughter’s decision. But no legislation in the world can create good family communication. Rather than helping already frightened teens, this legislation may delay their getting the prompt medical care and counseling they need.”

The bill creates two new federal crimes. It imposes a federal parental notification and waiting period on a teenager seeking an abortion outside of her home state, even if neither her home state nor the state where she seeks an abortion requires such measures. It would also make it a federal crime for a person other than a parent – including a grandmother, aunt, or older sister – to help a teen cross certain state lines for an abortion unless she had already fulfilled the requirements of her home state’s law restricting teens’ abortions.

By doing so, the Teen Endangerment Act raises serious constitutional concerns. The Constitution protects the right of every individual to travel freely from state to state and, when visiting another state, not to be treated as a foreigner. Instead, this bill saddles a young woman with the laws of her home state no matter where she travels in the nation. The bill pits states against each other, requiring one to enforce another’s laws even when a state has chosen not to restrict teenagers’ access to abortion care.

“The Teen Endangerment Act will harm teenagers and do nothing to reduce unintended pregnancies,” said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “The best way to protect our teenagers is to encourage families to communicate and to provide teenagers with the information they need to lead healthy and safe lives.”

The ACLU also noted that because of the shortage of abortion providers in this country, many teens – as well as adult women – must travel out of state to the nearest provider. This bill would endanger some teens by forcing them to travel alone for medical care.

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