Child Custody Protection Act: Misguided, Dangerous to Teens

By Rep. Nita M. Lowey

As the summer comes to an end, Congress continues to misread the concerns of American families. Instead of focusing on ways to bring parents, teachers, and neighbors together to improve the lives of our children, the anti-choice House of Representatives has chosen to advance divisive bills like the so-called Child Custody Protection Act. That bill, first considered by Congress in 1998, would prohibit anyone including a step-parent, grandparent, or religious counselor from accompanying a young woman across state lines for an abortion.

This is a dangerous, misguided bill that isolates our daughters and puts them at grave risk ­ that is why the President has promised to veto it. Under this legislation, young women who feel they cannot turn to their parents when facing an unintended pregnancy will be forced to fend for themselves without help from any responsible adult. Some will seek dangerous back-alley abortions close to home. Others will travel to unfamiliar places seeking abortions by themselves.

Thankfully, most young women more than 75 percent of minors under age 16 already involve their parents in the decision to seek an abortion. That’s the good news. And as a mother and a grandmother, I hope as we all hope that every child can go to her parents for advice and support.

But not every child is so lucky. Not every child has loving parents. Some have parents who are abusive or simply absent. And some have parents who are deeply uncomfortable discussing issues of responsible sexuality with their children. I believe that those young women who cannot go to their parents should be encouraged to involve another responsible adult a grandmother, an aunt, a rabbi or minister in what is always a difficult decision.

Already, more than half of all young women who do not involve a parent in the decision to terminate a pregnancy choose to involve another adult, including 15 percent who involve another adult relative. That’s a good thing. We should encourage the involvement of responsible adults in this decision be it a stepparent, aunt or uncle, religious minister or counselor not criminalize that involvement.

I am now the proud grandmother of five, and I believe grandparents should be able to help their grandchildren without getting thrown in jail. As much as we might wish otherwise, it is unrealistic to expect that family communication and open and honest parentchild relationships can be legislated. When a young woman cannot turn to her parents, she should certainly be able to turn to her grandmother or a favorite aunt for help.

I believe that the Child Custody Protection Act and other misguided bills send the worst possible message to our young people ­ They say: “Don’t tell anyone. No one can help you. You are on your own.” As a result, young women will be forced to travel out-of-state by themselves, or remain in-state and obtain an illegal abortion.

Parental consent laws don’t protect our daughters but they can kill them. They don’t bring families together but they can tear them apart. My focus has been to do more to bring families together, and to keep our young people safe. I firmly believe that we should make abortion less necessary for teenagers, not more dangerous and difficult. We need to teach teenagers to be responsible if they’re sexually active, and encourage abstinence. And we need a realistic and comprehensive approach to keeping teenagers safe and healthy. These are goals all of us parents and grandparents, neighbors and friends can work toward together.