Congress Must Pass CIANA to Protect Minor Girls From Abortion

Opinion   |   Bill Saunders and Mary Harned   |   Mar 8, 2012   |   2:37PM   |   Washington, DC

Of all of the commonsense regulations of abortion that are widely supported by Americans, parental involvement laws are consistently at the top. In fact, a recent Gallup poll showed that 71% of Americans favor requiring women under 18 to get parental consent for any abortion–only informed consent laws received higher marks.[1] Not surprisingly, parental consent or notification laws are in force in 37 states, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Why such popularity? Medical and sociological evidence, as well as commonsense, provide ample reasons why parental involvement is needed in a minor’s abortion decision. The United States Supreme Court has acknowledged that “immature minors often lack the ability to make fully informed choices that take into account both immediate and long-range consequences.”[2] Further, the medical, emotional, and psychological consequences of abortion are often serious and can be lasting, particularly when the patient is immature.

Parents usually possess information essential to the physician’s medical judgment concerning their daughter. Further, parents who are aware that their daughter has had an abortion may better ensure appropriate post-abortion medical attention. Thus, parental consultation is usually in the best interests of a minor who is considering whether to have an abortion (which carries risks of blood clots, infection, pelvic inflammatory disease, injury to her cervix (including cervical lacerations), injury to her other organs, future miscarriages and complicated pregnancies, infertility, hysterectomy, hemorrhage, depression, anxiety, increased risk of future drug and alcohol abuse, and even death (from the procedure or suicide)).

Medical risks aside, in states that lack, or have weak, parental involvement laws, a man can commit statutory rape, impregnate a minor, and take her to an abortion clinic without the consent or even the knowledge of her parents. After obtaining a “secret” abortion, the minor will find herself right back in the abusive situation.

Unfortunately, pregnant minors are not fully protected even in states that have strong parental involvement laws because adults can take them to states that do not require parental involvement. To combat this problem, Congress is considering a federal law—the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA)—that would: (1) prevent a non-parent—an abuser, a parent of a minor’s boyfriend, or someone else—from transporting a minor across state lines to avoid complying with a parental involvement law in the minor’s state of residence, and (2) require parental notification when the minor seeks an abortion in a state that is not her state of residence.

CIANA, which is the subject of a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on March 8th, is needed to protect minors. When a minor is transported across state lines to obtain an abortion without her parents’ knowledge and/or consent, in circumvention of her home state’s law, the purposes behind that law are thwarted. Most importantly, young women in those states are as deserving of protection from predators and abortion complications as are those in states with parental involvement laws. For more information, please see AUL’s statement in support of CIANA.

[1] See L. Saad, Common State Abortion Restrictions Spark Mixed Reviews (July 25, 2011), available at (last visited Mar. 7, 2012).

[2] Bellotti v. Baird (Bellotti II), 443 U.S 622, 640 (1979).