Teen Endangerment Act Introduced Again In The House

March 25, 1999 12:00 am

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Thursday, March 25, 1999

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union harshly criticized a bill introduced today that would make criminals out of family members who help a teenager travel to another state for an abortion.

The bill would make it a federal crime for most anyone — including a grandparent, trusted adult friend, or minister — to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion unless she has already fulfilled the requirements of her home state’s parental consent or notification law. The bill, introduced by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, and James Barcia, D-MI, is similar to legislation introduced last week in the Senate.

“Clearly, it is in the best interests of young women for caring, responsible adults to accompany them to an abortion provider and back after surgery,” said Catherine Weiss, Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “By threatening anyone who helps them travel to another state for an abortion with arrest and imprisonment, this legislation would further isolate many young women, discouraging them from turning to someone they trust.”

Most girls and young women involve their parents in the decision whether to have an abortion; those who do not are often the victims of incest or other family abuse for whom such communication may be unavailable or even dangerous. The true effect of this legislation, known by opponents as the “Teen Endangerment Act,” would be to isolate further these vulnerable young women and threaten their health by denying them the assistance of trusted adults.

“The bill’s supporters claim this legislation promotes family values, but in reality it interferes with private family decisions,” said Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “Healthy family communication cannot be legislated. Legislation that would throw caring grandparents in jail is hardly supportive of the American family.”

According to an analysis prepared by the ACLU, the legislation also conflicts with core constitutional principles of federalism. The legislation is unprecedented, both by denying states the power to enforce their own laws within their own borders and by attaching the laws of their home state to Americans — no matter where in the nation they travel.

Similar legislation was passed by the House last year but failed to garner enough votes in the Senate to be brought to the floor for a vote. President Clinton promised to veto last year’s legislation.

An ACLU analysis of the legislation can be found at:

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