Schools cannot give children aspirin without a parent's permission. But strangers may legally drive minors over state lines for an abortion to escape parental notification laws.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Wednesday it's time to close such legal loopholes - but opponents said that may prevent scared teenagers from obtaining competent medical attention.Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called a hearing Thursday on a bill he is co-sponsoring with Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., to clearly close any such loopholes.
"A parent's permission is required for any school field trip, and students have to return their report cards to the school with their parent's signature," Hatch said.
"Unless we pass this bill, however, without either parent knowing, a stranger can take a young girl to another state for a serious medical procedure in order to avoid a state law that requires parental involvement."
Joyce Farley of Duschore, Pa., said that's exactly what happened to her and her daughter.
"My child was provided alcohol, raped and then taken out of state by a stranger to have an abortion. This stranger turned out to be the mother of the adult male who provided the alcohol and then raped my 12-year-old daughter while she was unconscious," she said.
The man later pleaded guilty to statutory rape. But a conviction of his mother on charges of interference of child custody was overturned and a retrial ordered.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher said that while transportation of a minor across state lines without permission is illegal in most cases, the issue is cloudy when it involves abortion - so federal legislation is needed to clarify it.
But some groups said such efforts may prevent teenagers too scared to tell their parents they are pregnant from obtaining competent medical attention.
Karen Bell of Zionsville, Ind., said her 16-year-old daughter died 10 years ago after she had a botched illegal abortion because she was too scared to tell her parents or a judge as required in Indiana for a legal abortion - and didn't travel the 100 miles or so to Kentucky where she could obtain one without consent.
"Is it acceptable for us to force them into acts of desperation? Young women are committing suicide, self-inducing and going to the back alleys rather than go to their parents," she said.
Renee Jenkins, chairwoman of pediatrics at Howard University, testified that numerous medical associations also oppose any loss of confidentiality by minors for medical treatment.
"In a regional survey of suburban adolescents, only 45 percent said they would seek medical care for sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse or birth control if they were forced to notify their parents," she said.
Hatch said, however, that he doesn't buy arguments that the bill should not be passed because many teenagers do not feel comfortable telling their parents they are pregnant.
"Well, I assume no teenager is comfortable sharing this news with her parents," he said. "But that is hardly a rationale for not enforcing state laws which wisely and reasonably require such notice."
Farley - whose daughter was taken for an abortion - added, "I don't care what your views on abortion are, just don't let them interfere with the protection of a child. Please don't turn your head and ignore what happened to my daughter - because it could happen to yours."