CCPA: Clarifying the Constructive, Progressive Approach (on Abortion)

July 25th, 2006

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The Middle East is on fire, America is at war in Iraq, gas is over $3 per gallon, there are coast-to-coast heat waves and blackouts, the immigration debate has exploded, global trade talks have collapsed, the federal budget hasn’t been passed, and Congress has spent this summer debating – drum roll please—flag-burning, the Pledge of Allegiance, and gay marriage.

So could abortion be far behind?

Nope. Abortion is indeed a very important topic – one that Americans care about. But it’s a shame that it continues to be played only as a political game. The Senate is expected to vote today on the Child Custody Protection Act (“CCPA”), a bill that makes it a crime, punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine, for any person other than a parent to help a teen cross state lines to obtain an abortion, unless the teen has already complied with her home state’s abortion parental notice or consent law.

Senators face an incredibly difficult vote. While the bill’s title sounds reasonable (don’t they all?) – and most Americans support parental involvement requirements – a look at the CCPA shows how the current congressional majority once again would rather play hardnosed abortion politics than introduce truly effective related policies.

Indeed, the CCPA is designed to reduce the number of progressives in Congress – not to reduce the number of abortions in America.

Supporters say the CCPA is about parental involvement in a teen’s decisions to have an abortion, and the majority of Americans, though they are “pro-choice,” are undeniably in favor of parental involvement. Not surprisingly, public opinion research shows that about 75% of voters support a law requiring teens under 18 to get parental consent for any abortion. So opponents of this measure have an uphill climb.

But the centerpiece of this bill – jail- goes too far for most Americans. Polling shows that voters hate prison as a response to abortion. Nearly 70% of voters oppose abortion laws that would put people in jail.

That’s why progressives should use this bill to point out that conservatives are more interested in playing politics than seriously addressing the number of abortions in America. There are 1.3 million abortions annually in America. The rate of abortions declined through the Clinton years, but it has flattened since the late 1990s. For all of the pious talk, the “right to lifers” who currently run Washington have done virtually nothing to address that.

The CCPA, when considered in the framework of reducing abortions in America, is a case in point. The bill would have no impact on the more than 90% of abortions that occur in the woman’s state of residence. Of the remaining 10%, this law would also not apply to teens who live in half the states, because these states either lack any parental involvement law or have one that doesn’t meet the bill’s definition. Combine this with the fact that in most cases of teen abortion, a parent knows about the abortion. (In fact, according to teens having abortions, their parents prefer abortion to childbirth anyway by a ratio of 4 to 1.)

The bottom line? This bill would apply to a small handful of abortions and have minimal or no impact on the overall American abortion rate.

President Bush and the current congressional majority have consistently sacrificed genuine abortion reduction programs in favor of abortion politics. “Partial-birth” abortions, for example, account for 8 in every 10,000 abortions. The “Unborn Victims of Violence Act” law applies only in the very rare circumstances where a crime against a pregnant woman takes place on federal territory (a post office, a national park, etc.) or where a federal crime is committed that leads to the loss of her pregnancy (i.e. transporting of nuclear weapons, kidnapping, etc.). Meanwhile, bills like Prevention First, Senate Majority Leader Reid’s legislation that would effectively reduce the number of abortions in America by preventing the unintended pregnancies, never makes it to the Senate floor for a vote.

While Third Way and most Americans support legislation that would actually try to reduce the 1.3 million abortions in the U.S. each year, the CCPA isn’t up to the task. It’s tough politics, but not smart policy.

Click HERE to read Third Way’s suggested talking points on the CCPA.