Thursday, July 27, 2006

Open note to Senator Durbin

I've been in the habit of using email connect systems to keep my legislators posted on how I think they should proceed on certain issues, and am on a couple of alert networks for issues I think especially important. A few days ago, after the Child Custody Protection Act was passed, (to my Senators: thank you, gentlemen!) I was alerted that Democratic leaders were still trying to stonewall the bill. I used the connect system of the organization that notified me to fire off a quick form email to Senators Richard Durbin and Harry Reid. This afternoon I received the following email from Durbin:

July 27, 2006

Dear Mr.______

Thank you for contacting me about the Child Custody Protection Act (S.
403). I appreciate knowing your concerns about this legislation.

This bill would establish penalties for transporting an individual under
the age of 18 across a state line to obtain an abortion. The proposed law
would apply to minors who live in states that require parental involvement in the minor's abortion decision.

There are limited exceptions to this proposal. The minor and the person
transporting the minor are not liable if the abortion is necessary to save
the life of the minor, or if the person transporting the minor is the
parent of the minor or reasonably believes that parental notification or
judicial authorization was provided prior to the abortion.

I am concerned that this bill would punish a grandmother or a young friend who is only trying to assist a young woman in a difficult situation. No federal law can create trust and communication between parents and
children where none exists. This bill would create additional
complications for young women involved in extremely difficult family
circumstances.

I will continue to keep your thoughts about this legislation in mind as it
is considered in the Senate over the coming months. Again, thank you for
your message. Please feel free to keep in touch.

Sincerely,


Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

RJD/


I fired off a response on the spot. As a general rule I'd recommend a cooling-off period, but I don't always follow good advice. If I had, I think I might have been a little clearer, and dealt with his claims point-by-point instead of barrelling through, but here it is:

Senator:
Precisely what constitutes 'reasonable belief' of parental notification?
If parents are to be able to care properly for their children, they cannot have the government undermining them behind their backs. What if your 'grandmother or young friend' transports the girl to a clinic where she has serious complications and dies or is damaged for life? How would you explain this to the parents then?

I am the mother of two daughters, sir. If one of my girls got pregnant while a minor and any relative or 'young friend' were to transport her across state lines for an abortion, I would be livid when I found out-- not at her, but at the person who interposed him or herself between us in her time of need. How do you propose to protect underage girls from exploitation by abusive adults with an imperative to cover up their dirty work?


If I had a mulligan, it probably wouldn't have been a bad idea to point out that if a 'grandmother or young friend,' or any other adult who is not an underage girl's legal guardian were to take that girl across state lines for any reason other than an abortion (be it a tattoo, a tryst, a picnic at the beach, or charity work) without express parental consent, that would constitute an abduction. The parents would be well within their rights to press charges if they so chose, and in the case of injury to the minor the penalty could be considerable. Whether or not that minor has a great relationship with her parents would be irrelevant.

Another point that I probably ought to have made was the old 'hard cases make bad law.' Granting carte blanche to anyone who wishes to take a teenage girl to another state for an abortion just because there are a handful of abusive parents out there is irresponsible and violates the integrity of the majority of families who are not disfunctional. Besides, a judicial bypass option is always available. In a case of genuine abuse, the state ought to be involved anyway, and if it is not already involved with the family when a pregnant teenager comes to them for an abortion bypass, it had better get there.

Now, I wonder if I'll get a response?

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