Republicans are gunning for abortion rights this year- according to the Guttmacher Institute during the first quarter of 2011 “legislators have introduced 916 measures related to reproductive health and rights in the 49 legislatures that have convened their regular sessions” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced a new bill to the Senate floor yesterday (June 22nd). Titled The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act or CIANA for short, this bill has the GOP once again taking aim at abortion rights; this time on the federal side.
Though the full text of the bill is not available yet, the press release by the Senators gives a fairly detailed summary of the contents. The main aspect of the bill would require doctors to notify the parents of an out-of-state patient before performing an abortion. It would also prohibit any non-parent from taking a minor across state lines to get an abortion in an attempt to circumvent existing state parental notification laws. The bill does include exceptions for cases of medical emergency, abuse or neglect. Since this bill would make non-compliance with these regulations a federal offense, it also has provisions for possible punishment; including fines and imprisonment for doctors who perform abortions on out-of-state minors without notifying the parents as well as any individual who helped the minor cross state borders.
Here are just a few of the various questions pro-choice advocates have about the potential ramifications this bill would have if passed: Jen Phillips over at Mother Jones poses a good question about the power of one state to enforce the laws of another state here. Over at RH Reality Check Robin Marty questions the impact this will have on doctor/patient relationships. What I find myself wondering is how a doctor would be responsible for determining if abuse is a concern. If a teenager comes to their office and says “I can’t tell my parents, my father will beat me if he finds out.” yet has no proof of prior abuse should the doctor err on the side of patient safety and perform the abortion without notifying the parents or should s/he err on the side of parental involvement and tell them anyway? It is a no win situation, the doctor risks going to jail if s/he performs the abortion and risks the safety of his patient if parental notification laws are followed. Most states already provide their own laws for exemption in instances like this, so would the patient have to get an exemption from her state before proceeding to get an abortion?
There are clearly too many holes in this bill to make it viable, but that won’t stop its presenters from trying. Luckily recent congressional history indicates the bill is unlikely to pass; similar bills were introduced to the House of Representatives in both 2005 and 2009 and neither made to a Senate vote. The bill in 2009 died in committee and the 2005 bill died when the session ended before a Senate vote could be taken. Hopefully past trends will continue and this bill new bill will go nowhere. That still leaves the almost one thousand state level bills that are seeing a much higher rate of success.