The Teen Endangerment Act
The Center for Reproductive Rights urges Congress to reject the Teen Endangerment Act (H.R. 748, S. 8, 396, 403). The Center opposes the Teen Endangerment Act because its passage would not only harm the health of teenagers across the country, but will also direct the full force of the federal criminal justice system against grandparents, clergy, and others who attempt to help young women in need. It is an extreme measure that will severely restrict young women’s ability to obtain an abortion outside their home states, even in situations in which a parent is involved in their decision or the abortion is necessary to protect the young woman’s health.
This bill is not about protecting minors – its purpose is to make it more difficult for minors to obtain abortions by threatening to punish trusted adults to whom they turn for help. It is also an attempt to regulate family dynamics, ignoring the fact that some young women cannot involve their parents in their abortion decision and turn to other family members and clergy for guidance and assistance. While most teenagers talk to their parents about such decisions – and are more likely to do so the younger they are – others cannot do so for reasons including physical and sexual abuse. Those who feel they cannot involve their parents will go to any lengths to avoid doing so. As a result of the Teen Endangerment Act, some will be forced to travel to a distant clinic alone, seek risky alternatives, or carry unwanted pregnancies to term.
The Teen Endangerment Act is also an assault on the core American principles of federalism and state sovereignty, which hold that the laws of a state only apply within its boundaries. At a time when so many other pressing matters are before Congress and the federal courts, it is outrageous that legislators are seeking to have federal prosecutors spend resources enforcing such an entanglement of state laws, punishing trusted adults for helping teenagers, and jeopardizing the well-being of America’s young people.