GOP gains may aid abortion bill

The House this week is expected to pass a controversial abortion-related bill, and its outlook in the Senate has improved significantly in the wake of the GOP’s gains in November.

Legislation that would make it illegal in most circumstances for an adult to transport a minor across state lines to avoid certain abortion laws could be enacted this year, according to a House sponsor who has seen similar measures stall in the Senate.

“We’ve passed it a number of times through the House,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said. She added that the increased GOP majority in the Senate is of “pivotal importance” to the bill.

“We are hopeful it will pass this year,” said Jack Finn, communications director for Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), the sponsor of the Senate bill.

The Senate version of the Child Custody Protection Act is among the GOP’s top 10 legislative priorities, making it possible for Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to “Rule 14” the bill, said Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Frist. Under Rule 14, the measure can be placed on the Senate calendar, where it can be brought to the Senate floor at any time without the need to go through the committee process.

A version of the bill, S. 8, was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is the only Republican committee member not signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor. Call said the bill would be addressed “sometime soon” after the spring recess. The bill has 37 co-sponsors.

Another version of the bill, S. 403, has been placed on the Senate legislative calendar.

The original House version of the Child Custody Protection Act has passed three times — in 1998, 1999 and 2002. It stipulates that if an adult transports an underage girl across stateliness to avoid parental-consent laws in her home state that adult would be committing a federal offense.

Under its new name and with an added provision, the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) will be heard in the House Rules Committee today and, subject to the rule, will be voted on tomorrow or Thursday. The new provision in the 2005 House bill requires a physician in a state with no parental-notification requirement to notify the parent of a minor who is a resident of a different state before performing the operation. If the minor has received authorization from a judge in her home state or if she is a victim of abuse or has a medical emergency, parental notification is not required.

“We never take anything for granted,” Ros-Lehtinen said, but she said she was optimistic the bill will pass in the House this year as well.

The Senate bill has retained the name and provisions of the original House bill.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said, “This bill is ripe for Senate action.”

He said he was sure that the change in the House bill would not affect its passage.

“Pretty much the lawmaker that liked the last bill will like this bill,” Johnson said.

Pro-choice groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America argue the bill will remove key rights for young women in dire situations.

NARAL said in a statement, “CIANA is a government run amok legislative jumble that does nothing to either prevent unintended pregnancies or strengthen troubled families, but imposes a complex set of inflexible bureaucratic mandates on families that are already under stress.”

Ted Miller, a spokesman for NARAL, added in an e-mail that it is unclear which version the Senate will address: “The Senate has never voted on this issue before, so we are working to ensure that senators know that this bill does nothing to prevent unintended pregnancies and imposes complex new mandates on families under stress.”