What’s Wrong With the Child Custody Protection Act

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Yesterday, the House and Senate passed the Child Custody Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime to transport a pregnant minor across state borders for an abortion without parental consent, and allow parents to sue abortion providers if their daughters go to a clinic without permission. Today in the American Prospect, Helena Silverstein and Wayne Fishman take the time to explain what’s wrong with this law.

Thirty-four states have laws in effect that require either parental consent or notification before a minor can get an abortion. The official purpose of the CCPA is to bolster these state laws. After all, what good is it for, say, Pennsylvania to require parental consent if grandma or boyfriend can just take missy to New Jersey? It’s a fair enough point.

But here’s another fair point: Not all families are well functioning, and missy might have very good reason to think that dad would unleash some righteous whoop-ass on any daughter of his who is even sexually active, never mind one who wants an abortion. So a minor’s wellbeing can be put at risk by making it more difficult for her to get an abortion without parental involvement — for instance, by going out of state.

Now some supporters of parental notification laws argue that if a pregnant minor is really in trouble with her parents (because they’re abusive, say, or because the girl’s father was the one who got her pregnant), then she can just go get a “judicial bypass” from the courts that would allow her to get an abortion without notifying her parents.

But as Silverstein and Fishman point out, the judicial bypass system is a complete and utter mess. In Alabama and Tennessee, “nearly half of the courts charged with implementing the bypass mechanism were unprepared to do so.” And many judges, unaware of their responsibilities, simply refuse to give pregnant minors a waiver to get an abortion for ideological reasons. So often there’s no escape, and the CCPA is, in effect, bolstering a court system that doesn’t work.

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