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Senate Approves Bill That Would Criminalize Assisting Minors’ Access Out Of State Abortions

The NYCLU is calling on legislators to reject a dangerous bill that would restrict a young woman’s ability to obtain an abortion outside of her home state even in a medical emergency.

On July 25th the Senate approved S. 403, the “Teen Endangerment Act” (called the “Child Custody Protection Act” by its sponsors), which would make it a federal crime for any person but a parent — including a grandmother, aunt, sibling, or clergy member — to help a teen who had not already fulfilled her home state’s teen abortion restriction to cross certain state lines for an abortion. The bill contains no exception for an abortion that may be necessary to protect a teen’s health.

“In an ideal world every teenager facing an unplanned pregnancy would have supportive parents to help her, but for too many young women this is not the reality,” said Lee Che Leong, Director of the NYCLU Teen Health Initiative. “The Teen Endangerment Act would increase the risk for those most vulnerable teens by criminalizing other caring adults who want to help.”

The Senate bill must be reconciled with the version passed in the House.

“We should protect our kids not by punishing the adults that help them but by making sure they have comprehensive sex ed and other resources to avoid unintended pregnancies,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, Director of the NYCLU Reproductive Rights Project.

According to an analysis prepared by the ACLU and the NYCLU, the legislation also violates core constitutional principles of federalism that are often espoused in other contexts by supporters of this bill. The Constitution protects the right of every individual to travel freely from state to state and, when visiting another state, not to be treated as a foreigner. The Teen Endangerment Act, in violation of this freedom, would saddle a young woman with the laws of her home state no matter where she travels in the nation.

The NYCLU also said the bill would have no effect on the number of pregnant teenagers who tell their parents about their decision to have an abortion. Studies show that most parents are already aware of their teenagers’ abortion decisions.

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