ACLU Urges Senate To Reject Teen Endangerment Act, Says Measure Will Harm Young Women

July 25, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Senate to reject the Teen Endangerment Act, a dangerous measure that would restrict a young woman’s ability to obtain an abortion outside of her home state even in a medical emergency. The legislation would put vulnerable young women at risk and is expected to be considered later today.

“We need to do more to protect and counsel teens, but the Teen Endangerment Act would put teens, especially the most vulnerable ones, at greater risk,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We want our daughters to be safe, but not all teenagers come from the perfect American family. The Senate must reject this unwise proposal.”

The “Teen Endangerment Act” (S. 403), called the “Child Custody Protection Act” by its sponsors, would make it a federal crime for a person, other than a parent — including a grandmother, aunt, sibling, or clergy member — to help a teen cross certain state lines for an abortion unless the teen had already fulfilled her home state’s teen abortion restriction. It contains no exception for an abortion that may be necessary to protect a teen’s health.

If the Senate passes the bill, it must be reconciled with the version passed in the House.

According to an analysis prepared by the ACLU, the legislation also ironically violates core constitutional principles of federalism that are often espoused in other contexts by supporters of this bill. 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. The Teen Endangerment Act, in violation of this freedom, would saddle a young woman with the laws of her home state no matter where she travels in the nation.

The ACLU also said the bill would have no effect on the number of pregnant teenagers who tell their parents about their decision to have an abortion. Studies show that most parents are already aware of their teenagers’ abortion decisions.

“The best way to protect our daughters is to ensure they have the education and support needed to protect themselves from unintended pregnancies,” said Fredrickson. “Instead of threatening our most vulnerable teens and pouring hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars each year into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that we know don’t work, we should focus our efforts on solving the problem of teen pregnancy.”

The ACLU’s memo on the Teen Endangerment Act is available at:

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