Monday, July 24, 2006

Tell Your Senator How to Really Protect Teenagers

The Senate will be voting on what has been labeled the Child Custody Protection Act (CCPA) tomorrow. The CCPA would make it a federal crime for anyone other than a young woman’s parent—including a grandparent, aunt, or religious counselor—to accompany a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion unless the minor first complies with her home-state’s parental involvement laws.

That's right -- a federal crime. Let's say a young woman is pregnant because of familial incest and her own state prohibits abortion except with parental consent. She goes to her minister or rabbi -- or her grandmother -- for help to get to the neighboring state where such consent isn't required. It would be a federal crime for them to offer help. Instead, the girl is told she must tell her parents or continue the pregnancy or make the trip on her own. Perhaps they should have labeled this bill the Teen Endangerment Act.

Now, I believe that in most cases, young people need the support of their parents and families in making a decision about an unplanned pregnancy. I also know that most young people will involve their parents, especially with other supportive adults helping them to do so. But, in the past thirty years, I have counseled young women where such knowledge would have put her at grave physical, psychological, and/or economic risk. I live in a state where young people have the ability to make pregnancy-related decisions without parental consent, but that's not true in most states anymore.

The CCPA will not protect adolescents, it will only punish them for getting pregnant, maybe for having had sex. The Senate will be offered the opportunity to vote tomorrow on two amendments to support teenage pregnancy prevention services as a real alternative.

The Senate switchboard number is 202-224-3121. Let your Senator know that as a person of faith you support teen pregnancy programs that work not jail terms for clergy and grandparents.

No comments: