ACLU Opposes "Teen Endangerment Act," Says Adults Helping Frightened Teens Should Not Be Outlaws

September 6, 2001 12:00 am

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ACLU Opposes “Teen Endangerment Act,” Says Adults Helping Frightened Teens Should Not Be Outlaws


WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today said it strongly opposed the so-called Child Custody Protection Act, saying the bill threatens to turn family members and others who help a teenager deal with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy into criminals.

“This bill flies in the face of both the best interests of America’s young women and the Constitution,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the Washington National Office of the ACLU. “Trusted adults seeking to help a teenager should not have to face the prospect of becoming outlaws.”

The bill (HR 476) would make it a federal crime for a person, other than a parent, to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion unless the minor had already fulfilled the requirements of her home state’s parental involvement law. The bill, which was introduced in February by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), will be the subject of a hearing today in the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in both the 105th and 106th Congresses but never became law.

The ACLU said that if the bill — which it has dubbed the Teen Endangerment Act — were to become law, teenagers would be denied the counsel and support of trusted family members or friends when seeking an abortion out of state. The bill only allows parents to travel with their child; other family members such as grandparents or aunts and uncles would be subject to criminal prosecution.

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 voluntarily inform their parents of their decision and that those that do not are compelled by tragic circumstances such as incest or violence.

According to an analysis prepared by the ACLU, the legislation also ironically violates core constitutional principles of federalism that are often espoused by supporters of this bill in other contexts.

The ACLU highlighted the issue of parental involvement laws in an advertisement in this week’s New York Times Magazine that cites the tragic case of Becky Bell, a 17-year-old from Indiana who died of an illegal abortion in 1988. In order to obtain an abortion in Indiana, minors must receive a parent’s consent but Bell, fearful of disappointing her parents, had a botched illegal abortion that caused her death. (To see the ACLU’s advertisement, go to:

“Teenagers dealing with an unwanted pregnancy must be able to turn to someone they trust, parent or not, or else they’re in real danger,” Murphy said. “This bill would effectively put these frightened teenagers in danger.”

The ACLU’s Analysis of the “Teen Endangerment Act” can be found at:

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