Congress Ponders Cross-Border Abortions

A Pennsylvania woman who says her teenage daughter was lured into another state by a boyfriend's parents for a secret abortion (search) told a House panel Thursday that a federal parental notification law could have stopped it.

Marcia Carroll of Lancaster, Pa., said her pregnant daughter, 14, had decided to keep and raise her baby when her boyfriend's parents took her to a New Jersey abortion clinic to get around Pennsylvania's parental notification law. Once there, Carroll said, the family refused to take her home until she had an abortion.

"No one should be able to circumvent state laws by performing an abortion in another state on a minor daughter without parental consent," the woman told the House Subcommittee on the Constitution.

More than 30 states have parental involvement laws, but there is no federal policy requiring other states to honor them when girls cross jurisdictions secretly to obtain abortions.

Stopping the practice of transporting a minor across state lines for an abortion in order to evade parental consent or notification laws is a top legislative priority this year for abortion opponents and Republican leaders in Congress.

Supporters say the bill would protect teens from the type of incident Carroll reported. She did not name the boyfriend or his family and said the police told her they could take no action since her daughter went willingly.

Opponents of the legislation complain it would cut off an escape route for pregnant girls who have abusive parents and would punish well-meaning relatives, friends and doctors who try to help.

"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," said Laura W. Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union (search).

Bills in the House and Senate would make it illegal to knowingly transport a minor across a state line to get an abortion, with the intent of evading parental involvement laws in the girl's home state.

Called the "Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act" (search) in the House, the bill also would require that abortion providers in states without parental involvement laws notify the parent or guardian before performing the procedure on a minor resident of a different state.

The House bill makes an exception for girls who have received authorization from a judge in their home state, and for girls whose lives are endangered by the pregnancy or "a physical disorder, physical injury or physical illness."

"This bill puts young women's lives at risk, makes criminals out of caring physicians, and affects the care of all patients," Warren Seigel, a doctor and member of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, told the panel.

The House bill is H.R. 748.