BACKGROUND: Introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the "Teen Endangerment Act" -- as women's reproductive rights advocates have renamed this bill -- will make it more difficult and more dangerous for teenage women to access safe, legal abortion care. It is a reworking of the failed "Child Custody Protection Act" of the late '90s, which would have prohibited anyone other than a parent from accompanying a teenage woman across state lines to access abortion care. That bill was defeated with the help of women's rights advocates and opposition from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society for Adolescent Medicine, which then stated that the travel restrictions may increase the risk of harm to adolescents by delaying access to medical care.
Additional restrictions added to new bill Legislation very similar to the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act has been considered several times by Congress, beginning in the late 1990s and as recent as 2006. Both the House and Senate have passed previous Teen Endangerment bills, but in different Congresses, so it has never become law.
In addition to the flawed provisions of earlier versions of the Teen Endangerment Act, the current bill that is up for a vote includes strict mandatory parental notification and delay requirements, requiring doctors to provide excessive and unnecessary notice to the parents of teenage women attempting to access abortion care. The Teen Endangerment Act of today violates basic constitutional principles of federalism, the right to privacy, due process, equal protection and the right to travel.
Harms teenage women The Teen Endangerment Act will subject teenage women seeking to end a pregnancy to a confusing maze of overlapping and conflicting state and federal laws. The Guttmacher Institute has reported 87 percent of counties in the U.S. do not have an abortion provider, meaning that accessibility to an abortion provider often requires crossing state lines for women of any age. In addition, many teenage women enroll in secondary or higher education in other states. Bottom line: The Teen Endangerment Act is coercion from the federal government that will make it more likely for teenage women to attempt dangerous self-abortions, illegal underground abortions or continue unwanted pregnancies against their will.
Criminalizes compassionate family, friends, doctors It is not safe for all teenage women, particularly those from violent homes, to disclose an unwanted pregnancy to their parents, yet 37 states currently require some form of parental involvement, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The Teen Endangerment Act would criminalize assistance from grandparents, siblings, friends, doctors, and other trusted individuals who assist teenage women in accessing out-of-state abortion care when parental involvement is not an option. NOW has always opposed parental notification requirements, as the fundamental right to self-determination is not dependent on age, and death from unsafe abortion does not begin at 18.