Religious groups cheered or condemned the House's approval of a bill that would restrict the transportation of minors to other states to seek an abortion.
The Child Custody Protection Act passed Wednesday by a vote of 270 to 159 after several hours of debate. The vote fell short of a two-thirds majority required to overturn a presidential veto, which the White House has threatened. And the Senate has yet to act on the measure.
If passed into law, the bill would make it illegal for a person other than a parent, guardian or legal custodian to take a pregnant girl younger than 18 to another state for an abortion--if such an act would violate parental involvement laws in the child's home state. It calls for a maximum penalty of a year in prison and $100,000 in fines.
An official of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the House's action. "This is legislation that protects parents, protects their teenage daughters, and protects the integrity of state laws," said Gail Quinn, executive director of the conference's Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism criticized the vote, voicing concern that girls who are afraid to tell their parents of a pregnancy would be more likely to undergo an abortion alone or use an unsafe method or practitioner.
"This act is an unacceptable infringement on reproductive rights of women in this country and compromises the safety of American teenagers," said Mark J. Pelavin, the center's associate director.
Conservative Christian groups praised the House vote.
"No one should be able to usurp parents' responsibility and right to care for their children's physical and emotional well-being," said Janet Parshall, spokeswoman for the Family Research Council. "Parents really do know what's in the best interests of their children."
Randy Tate, the Christian Coalition's senior vice president for government relations, agreed. "Allowing anyone to avoid prosecution by slipping across state lines with a minor child to get an abortion is not freedom of choice," he said. "It's abduction and child abuse."