Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act

By Claire, Communications Intern

US Senator Mark Rubio (R-Florida) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) into the Senate.  This bill would prohibit the act of knowingly taking a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion if the purpose is to evade parental notification laws in the home state.  The bill will also force providers to notify the parents of an out-of-state minor before the procedure can be preformed.

Sen. Hatch has this to say about the bill,

“The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act would help prevent the evasion of parental consent and notification laws in 36 states,” Senator Rubio said. “State parental involvement laws have been undermined and circumvented by those who simply travel to other states. It is important that this practice end permanently and states have the ability to enforce their laws.”

“I’m proud to stand with Senator Rubio in introducing this important legislation that is based on the belief that children should not make profound life-changing decisions by themselves and that parents are the best and most responsible position to help them,” said Hatch. “It includes appropriate exceptions and safeguards in order to focus on what unites the vast majority of Americans, that parents should be involved before their child has an abortion. This bill is a legitimate and constitutional way for Congress to help protect children and support parents.”

Emphasis mine.

Doctors who knowingly provide abortions without notifying the parents would face punishment in the form of fines and/or imprisionment.  The bill supposedly does not apply in cases of medical emergency, neglect or abuse.  While that statement can be made it, is far more likely that such cases will be tied up in red tape long after the minor can obtain an abortion.  Not unlike those who want abortion restricted to mother’s life, rape or incest; such statements are empty to those of us who know how difficult it already is for women seeking those exceptions now.

I find it interesting that Sens. Rubio and Hatch refer to young women seeking abortion as children.  This bill is surprisingly gender-neutral for being entirely about the half of the human species that has a uterus and child-birthing capabilities.  I do not believe that the senators were being any sort of progressive for transgender and genderqueer inclusion with their language either.

I think ultimately the use of the word children was to further legally restrict the rights of minors in this country.  I think it is a shame that we continue to think of all people under the age of 18, from 3 months to 17 years, as the exact same in the eyes of the law.   Once upon a time people were adults at 13 or 15.  And while I believe it is progress that brought us to a longer span before full adulthood, it’s ridiculous to think of teenagers as if they were still in kindergarten.

A minor is not the property of his/her parents.  They have a right to chose their future.  They have a right to decide if they want to be a parent, if they want to keep their child, or if they do not want to be pregnant.  No parent has the right to that decision instead.  Once upon a time girls were sent away to be pregnant and to give their children up for adoption.  There are still places like that.  How many of those girls wanted to keep their children or how many wanted to stay at home or how many wanted an abortion?

This of course does not even begin to address the issue of abuse and neglect in families.  What about the girls who face physical, emotional and sexual violence at the hands of family members or other authority figures?  How exactly do they tell an abortion provider this and how exactly does the provider know she’s telling the truth?  What exactly are the provisions for proving abuse?  What about girls whose overtly anti-choice parents will force her into a number of life-long situations including marriage and/or motherhood?  What about the girls who will be abused by their parents or abandoned by their parents if they ever become pregnant and/or get an abortion?

Instead of treating our young adults like children (and more importantly like they are stupid), we ought to be empowering them to make their own decisions.  We ought to be educating them and recognizing that they are intelligent, capable young people who can and will make the right decisions for themselves if given the proper tools.  We need comprehensive sex education.  We need them to understand that sexuality and sexual feelings are natural and normal.  We need them to understand that relationships must be built on trust, compassion and communication.  That sexual coercion and selfishness are not to be tolerated.  Restricting their access to abortion while enforcing a code of silence in families about the topic of sexuality is not going to make anything better.

We can only hope the House and Senate will recognize the flaws in this plan.

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