This legislation makes it a felony to "transport" an underaged female interstate "for purposes of evading parental notification laws." (AP) How, pray tell, would one know that the purpose of transporting the teenager across state lines is to avoid parental notification laws in one's home state? Clearly, one wouldn't expect a teenager, or her companion, to acknowledge their interstate journey is to avoid informing her parents; "Yes, officer, we're leaving Missouri, and heading out to California, so my folks won't find out I'm having an abortion." Hmmm....I don't think so.
In an election year, when a president is scoring low marks with the conservative wing of his Party, what better time to introduce draconian, and utterly irrelevant legislation which is aimed to pacify the ultra-right, even those who think of themselves as ultra-lite ultra-right. We would expect women in the Senate to be unusually vocal on this issue. But, the absence of California Senator Dianne Feinstein was conspicuous, and Ms. Play Both Sides of the Fence Clinton, as always, managed to cloak her inchoate neutrality behind the phrase: "We're going to sacrifice a lot of girls' lives here." Indeed, and we're also going to sacrifice a lot of common sense if we think, as Oklahoma Republican Senator Coburn suggests, that abstinence is the most effective prophylactic for teen pregnancy.
What a frightening thought that we live in an age when we can communicate with people 8,000 miles away with the speed of light, and members of the United States Senate are still advocating abstinence. What a thought that we're dealing with a public health issue of seismic proportions, an international crisis, HIV/AIDS, and there are members of Congress, and high up in this administration, who think they can turn the clock back to the days of Queen Victoria or, better still, to the days when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Unremarkably, these folks are members of the same class of dinosaur that brought us Creationism under the guise of "intelligent design."
More terrifying still is the thought that most Americans agree with legislation mandating parental notification for girls under the age of 18. In the best of all possible worlds, girls should be able to notify their parents. I did---about 20 years after my abortion which, fortunately for me, happened right after choice became legal. I can tell you this---my parents would have been just fine, thank you, had I never told them. And, if we force even one teenager girl into a realizing a pregnancy for which she is unprepared because of her parent's' agenda, that's one too many.
By handing out prison sentences, in cases like these, we are, in essence, criminalizing choice, and sending the message to our daughters and sons that they're old enough to procreate, but not to choose whether or not to parent. The criminal justice system is not now, nor must it ever be, the proper domain for hashing out family politics, and a society that deprives its young people of their privacy deprives them of the right to choose and, by extension, the right to self-determination.