House panel sends child abduction bill to the floor

The House Foreign Affairs panel cleared legislation by voice-vote Thursday that would enable the administration to pressure countries that fail to help return children abducted from the United States by one of their parents. 

The bill creates sanctions for the White House to use against countries that have signed the U.N.'s Hague Convention on international child abduction. It also calls on the State Department to negotiate Memorandums of Understanding with countries that aren't yet members of the treaty.

“Almost every member of the House – and many of us do have constituents that have come forward and asked for our help – are affected by the tragedy of international parental child abduction,” said the bill's author, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). “The damage to the child and the left-behind parent is incalculable and, too often, lifelong.”

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Some 1,144 children were abducted from a parent in the United States and taken abroad in 2012 alone, according to the State Department. About 40 percent of abducted children are taken to countries that have not signed the Hague treaty, limiting diplomatic options, and the convention itself does not have an enforcement mechanism.

Smith told The Hill that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has promised to bring up the bill on the House floor. A vote has not yet been scheduled.

The legislation is named after a New Jersey boy, Sean Goldman, who was abducted to Brazil for five years by his mother before being returned last year. 

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