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House Passes Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, Amid Controversy

On April 27, 2005, the United States House of Representative passed a bill entitled the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) by a vote of 270-157. The Act will make it a federal crime for any adult to transport a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion without the consent of her parents and will impose a mandatory notification and delay requirement on young women who seek abortion services outside of their home state.

The travel restriction makes it a federal crime for any person other than a parent or legal guardian-including a trusted grandparent, older sibling, or clergy member-to assist a minor in crossing state lines to access abortion services unless that minor has complied with the parental notification or consent laws of her home state.

The notification requirement makes it a federal crime for a doctor to perform an abortion on a minor who is a resident of another state unless the doctor notifies the minor's parent a minimum of 24 hours before the procedure. The 24 hour delay period will apply even if a parent accompanies her or his daughter to the out-of-state abortion provider and even if there is a medical emergency. The Supreme Court has made clear that laws creating mandatory waiting periods as well as parental consent and notification laws must provide an exception for medical emergencies. CIANA's lack of such a provision likely makes the Act unconstitutional.1

Aside from controversy over the bill itself, an unusual situation ensued over the language of five amendments offered by Representatives opposing the bill, all of which were eventually voted down. One amendment, offered by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), sought to create an exception to the transportation provision of the bill for taxicab drivers, bus drivers, others in the business of professional transport, doctors, nurses, and/or other medical providers or their staff.2 Another series of amendments, offered by Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), sought to provide exceptions to grandparents and adult siblings of the minor as well as members of the clergy.3

On April 21st, the Committee on the Judiciary filed their routine report on the bill; however, this report was unusual because it rewrote all five amendments. Below are the Judiciary Committee's rewrites of the amendments mentioned above:

Scott offered an amendment that would have exempted sexual predators from prosecution if they are taxicab drivers, bus drivers, or others in the business of professional transport.
Mr. Nadler offered an amendment that would have exempted sexual predators from prosecution under the bill if they were grandparents or adult siblings of a minor.
Jackson-Lee offered an amendment that would have exempted sexual predators from prosecution under the bill if they were clergy, godparents, aunts, uncles, or first cousins of a minor.4

The Committee's report stated:

[T]hose who happen to drive taxicabs, or who work in the business of professional transportation, should not be free to commit statutory rape and transport a minor across state lines to get an abortion without telling one of the girl's parents. And brothers, uncles, or godparents, should not be allowed to commit incest and then transport a young girl across state lines to get an abortion so evidence of their crimes are destroyed without telling one of the girl's parents about the abortion.5

The Democrats saw the Committee's actions as a deliberate attempt to make the Democratic amendments look outrageous. Several Representatives protested arguing that the report language-generally a routine action-questioned the Representatives integrity and used House process to score political points against Democrats. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said of the Committee report, "it is an abuse of power…They are abusing process to accomplish their objectives."6

Representative Nadler, responding to the Committee's report, stated:

This is truly outrageous, and a gross abuse of power. The authors of this report suggest that they described my amendment in accordance with its possible effect, but if that's true, consider this:

Under CIANA, a father who rapes and impregnates his own daughter can go and sue the doctor or the grandparent or the clergyman who transported his child across state lines for the purpose of getting an abortion. Maybe that wasn't exactly the intent of this legislation. But according to the descriptive guidelines now laid out by the majority, it would therefore be fair to call this entire bill the Rapists and Sexual Predators Right to Sue Act.7

Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), speaking on the floor during debate on CIANA, relayed a conversation with the Judiciary Committee's Chairman, James Sensenbrenner (R-WI):

I asked the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee about this deception… [a]nd instead of decrying what I certainly expected would be revealed as a mistake by an overzealous staffer...The Chairman stood by those altered amendment descriptions…When pressed as to why his committee staff took such an unprecedented action, the Chairman immediately offered up his own anger over the manner in which Democrats had chosen to debate and oppose this unfortunate piece of legislation we have before us today. In fact...he said, and I quote... "You don't like what we wrote about your amendments, and we don't like what you said about our bill."

To falsely rewrite the intent of an amendment submitted by another member, to intentionally distort its description as being designed to protect sexual predators, is no different than accusing a fellow member of Congress as being an apologist for sexual predators themselves.8

The Senate is poised to vote on a similar bill, the Child Custody Protection Act (S. 8, S. 396, S. 408), within the next few months.

References

  1. The Teen Endangerment Act (H.R. 748; S. 8, 396, 403) Harming Young Women Who Seek Abortions, Center for Reproductive Rights (April 2005), accessed May 16 2005.
  2. H. ADMT. 102, Amends H.R. 748, accessed 11 May 2005.
  3. Ibid.
  4. House Report 109-51- Part 2- Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act: Amendments Offered at Committee, accessed 11 May 2005.
  5. Ibid.
  6. "Judiciary," Congress Daily, 3 May 2005, accessed 11 May 2005.
  7. Representative Jerrold Nadler, "Nadler Outrages Over Republican Misrepresentation," Press Release published on 27 April 2005, accessed 11 May 2005.
  8. Representative Louis Slaughter, "House Republicans: Arrogance Unchecked," Press Release published on 26 April 2005, accessed 11 May 2005.

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