Nancy Keenan is the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Editorial Note: The US House of Representatives approved this bill with a minor amendment, meaning that it will likely sit in the doldrums until next year's new Congress comes to town. (aka "pure political stunt")
Tomorrow, the House is set to vote on a divisive and dangerous bill: the so-called "Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act" (CIANA). CIANA is a desperate political ploy that shows that anti-choice congressional leadership is out of step with Americans' priorities. This divisive and controversial anti-choice bill would virtually eliminate young women's right to choose through a crazy quilt of rules and regulations with no exceptions to protect young women's health.
Facts on the so-called "Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act":
- It would impose an impossibly complex patchwork of parental-involvement laws on women and doctors across the country, making it practically impossible for young women to access abortion care in another state. Because only 13 percent of U.S. counties have an abortion provider, for many young women the closest provider is in a neighboring state.
- It would impose criminal penalties on any adult other than a parent – including a grandparent, aunt, or religious counselor – who accompanies a young woman for abortion care in another state. This bill has no exception for teens who turn to another responsible adult because of violence at home, or in situations of rape or incest.
- Not only is the bill unconstitutional, it would impose criminal penalties on doctors who make an honest or inadvertent mistake in complying with one of the many complicated provisions.
This outrageous bill would do nothing to protect our young people or promote communication between teens and their parents. Pro-Choice Americans agree that teens in trouble should talk to their parents, and thankfully, most do. However, if they can't, for whatever reason, their safety is the most important thing. The American public wants teen pregnancy prevented, not punished, and we can see through this political posturing.
Frankly – that's just fine with anti-choice congressional leaders. Their goal is to distract voters from the issues that are really on their minds when they go to the polls this fall.
If anti-choice lawmakers truly wanted to protect our teens, they would stop blocking votes on commonsense measures to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion. They would fund programs that provide honest, realistic sex education, teach young people about the serious responsibilities that accompany parenthood, and stop slashing budgets for after-school programs that keep kids out of trouble and on the road to success.
It's clear that anti-choice congressional leaders are using divisive issues, like CIANA, to rally their far-right base to protect vulnerable incumbents. The question is: will we let them?