Jul 29 2006

Parents must have role in abortion decision

The Birmingham News

Editorial

THE ISSUE The U.S. Senate goes along with the House in protecting states' parental notification laws and making it a crime to take a girl to another state for an abortion without her parents' permission.

Unless it's a life or death emergency, no credible doctor is going perform surgery on a child for any reason without a parent's permission. Indeed, few jewelry stores will even pierce a girl's ears before the age of 18 without her mom or dad's signed consent.

Why, then, should a young girl be allowed to undergo an abortion without her parents being notified and agreeing? Of course, reasonable people understand how odd it is to allow a child to decide on her own whether she will have an abortion, but require that same child to obtain her parents' permission for, say, a semiannual teeth cleaning.

Odd it may be, but that was the controversy in the U.S. Senate this week. Fortunately, most senators - including Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions of Alabama - approved the Child Custody Protection Act. This bill will help uphold state parental notification and consent laws on abortion (Alabama has such a law) and also make it a crime for anybody other than a teenage girl's parents to take her out of state for an abortion.

The House overwhelmingly passed a similar bill last year. President Bush is certain to sign it once the House and Senate work out minor differences in the bills.

Only the most extreme abortion advocates oppose this reasonable bill. A national poll last year showed 82 percent of Americans believe it is wrong that ''a person should be able to take a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion without her parents' knowledge.'' Of course it is.

But that didn't stop pro-abortion senators from proposing a laughable amendment that would have allowed grandparents or a member of the clergy to transport girls out of state for an abortion. That amendment, turned down by the Senate, would have made the act practically useless. Who, exactly, is a ''member of the clergy.'' Anybody who spends five minutes on the Internet can find a place to buy a clergy ''license.''

Such a profoundly serious decision requires parental participation. Only six states, plus the District of Columbia, are without parental notification or consent laws. The bill passed by the Senate will keep people from taking young girls to those states for abortions, and it ensures that where abortion is concerned, parents have the same rights they have in a doctor's office, dental office or jewelry store.