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Reform Jewish Movement Disappointed Over House Passage of Restrictive Abortion Legislation

Pelavin: This bill would wrongly punish caring family members and friends for doing what is perfectly legal in states where parental involvement is not required. For young women already burdened by state laws mandating parental notice and consent, this legislation further puts their health and lives at risk.


Contact : Alexis Rice or Elana Erdstein 202-387-2800


WASHINGTON, April 17, 2002 - Responding to the House of Representatives passing the Child Custody Protection Act (H.R. 476), Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement.

    Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill that jeopardizes reproductive freedom and autonomy and imposes an undue burden on young women in America. The passage of the Child Custody Protection Act, a bill that would make it a federal crime to knowingly transport a minor across a state line to obtain an abortion if that minor had not met the requirements for parental involvement in her state of residence, marks a giant step backwards in the fight to protect women's Constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion.

    Under this bill, a mother could be prosecuted for taking her daughter to an out-of-state abortion provider if their home state has a two-parent consent law and the girl's father did not consent to the procedure. Similarly, a grandparent or other close relative could face criminal charges, as could a religious leader or close friend. There is a narrowly-drawn life exception that states that the bill would not apply when the abortion is necessary to save the life of the minor. Nevertheless, emergency medical personnel or taxicab drivers could be prosecuted under this bill for taking a young woman across state lines for an emergency abortion to prevent a serious health problem which was not judged to be life-threatening.

    This bill would wrongly punish caring family members and friends for doing what is perfectly legal in states where parental involvement is not required. For young women already burdened by state laws mandating parental notice and consent, this legislation further puts their health and lives at risk. Consider the young woman who is the victim of incest or other physical abuse. This legislation says to her: You must not only get permission from the parent who abused you before having an abortion, but even if you fear further abuse, you may not seek assistance from another adult whom you trust. This legislation further isolates young women in crisis and forces them to suffer alone. The reality is that most minors do involve a parent in their decisions about abortion. But for the young women who cannot-for whatever reason-this bill would prohibit them from seeking assistance from a trusted adult. Thus, it would force young women to turn to illegal or self-induced abortions.

    The bill's passage marks a clear victory for opponents of a woman's right to choose. It threatens not only the health and safety of minors, but the fundamental freedoms to which all women are entitled. Establishing more obstacles and barriers for young women seeking access safe and legal abortion creates a slippery slope that could lead to the eradication of a woman's right to choose. We must not revert to a reality in which back-alley abortions are the only option for our daughters.

    The Reform Jewish Movement has long supported a woman's free and unfettered right to choose. In 1975 the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) and Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) affirmed their commitment to reproductive health, stating in resolutions that "in any decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, the individual family or woman must weigh the tradition as she struggles to formulate her own religious and moral criteria to reach her own personal decision....We oppose all constitutional amendments and legislation that would abridge or circumscribe this right."

    As this bill moves on to the Senate, we hope that Senator Daschle and each member of the Senate will give serious thought to the principles at stake and reject, as they have twice before, this dangerous and unconstitutional legislation.

    ###

    The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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