As House Convenes Hearings, ACLU Says Teen Endangerment Act Puts Vulnerable Lives at Risk, Undercuts Private Family Decisions

March 3, 2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON - As the House of Representatives held hearings today on a dangerous measure restricting a teenager's ability to obtain an abortion outside of her home state, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that the legislation would put vulnerable young women at risk.

"This bill threatens the health and well-being of young women, forcing even those who come from dysfunctional homes to notify a parent," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "This legislation will not create healthy family communication where it does not already exist, and it ignores the plight of those young people who need support most."

The "Teen Endangerment Act" (H.R. 748), called the "Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act" by its sponsors, requires young women who need an abortion in a state other than their home state to notify their parents. It contains no exception for when an abortion may be necessary to protect a teen's health. And it requires a 24-hour waiting period and written notification even if a parent accompanies his or her daughter to an out-of-state abortion provider.

The bill would also make it a 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.

The Act creates a tangled web of parental notification mandates throughout the country, imposing extra hurdles on some teens and leaving others with no viable options, even those who cannot safely turn to a parent, the ACLU said.

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 avowed supporters of this bill. It supplants the laws in many states in this country that do not impose additional restrictions on teenagers seeking abortions.

"This bill neither respects the ability of each state to determine and enforce its own laws nor does it respect private family decisions even when a parent accompanies a teen," Murphy said. "It is neither the role of the federal government to second guess parents nor is it to circumvent state laws and endanger young lives in the process."

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 teenagers already inform their parents of their decision.

Statistics image