Tags: House | Passes | Law | Denying | Abortion | Rights

House Passes Law Denying Abortion Rights

Friday, 29 April 2005 12:00 AM

The sponsors say parents are in the best position to decide whether their daughter should have an abortion.

A congressman's wife in Washington, D.C., can walk in and get an abortion, no questions asked. She can do the same for her daughter. The congressman's girlfriend can do the same thing.

Not so for a teenager raped in Oklahoma, or a young woman abused by her father in North Dakota.

You can't tell your parents, and you can't find a doctor. The closest doctor to North Dakota lives in Minnesota. The closest doctor to Oklahoma is in Dallas.

You certainly can't blame the doctors. As my girlfriend in Oklahoma told me, in explaining why her doctor had decided to stop doing abortions, she has her own kids to worry about. I understand. No one ever said gynecologists were supposed to be heroines, or that their own kids had to be the footsoldiers in the abortion wars.

Roe v. Wade may be good law in the courts, but in 43 percent of the counties in America, there isn't a single doctor willing to perform an abortion. And that's an old figure, certain to be higher now.

For young girls who are the victims of abuse, the lack of access is a particularly crushing problem. Unbelievable as it may sound, not one single line in the Justice Department protocol on rape is addressed to emergency contraception, and according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 15,000 abortions a year are directly attributable to rape. The Justice Department has received a letter signed by 21 senators, among them Hillary Rodham Clinton, asking them to change this, and it has yet to do so.

Imagine denying a rape victim access to an abortion.

I was a law clerk on the U.S. Supreme Court nearly 30 years ago, when the Court held that states could not impose parental consent requirements unless they provided some "out" for girls who were the victims of abuse, or who could be harmed if they had to tell their parents. What moved the court, as is evident in the opinions, was the reality that a substantial percentage – no one is still sure how many, but estimates range as high as 20 percent – of pregnant teenagers may be victims of intrafamily abuse.

But the "out" the Court came up with, a judicial hearing, had the obvious problem of being flatly inconsistent with the very notion of a right to privacy, leading my boss, Justice Stevens, then the parent of teenage girls, who had voted the year before to uphold Missouri's parental consent law, to conclude that the government should stay out of the decision altogether.

The House, by contrast, has gone to the other extreme, clearly violating both the letter and spirit of the Constitution, and endangering young women in the process. Under its scheme, the victim of abuse has no out and no place to go, and anyone who helps her, even another relative, exposes herself to a possible prison sentence.

In the Senate, the bill is one of Majority Leader and would-be President Bill Frist's top 10 legislative priorities. If there were any doubt who controls the Republican Party, there should not be.

COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

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The sponsors say parents are in the best position to decide whether their daughter should have an abortion. A congressman's wife in Washington, D.C., can walk in and get an abortion, no questions asked. She can do the same for her daughter. The congressman's girlfriend...
House,Passes,Law,Denying,Abortion,Rights
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2005-00-29
Friday, 29 April 2005 12:00 AM
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