Parental-Notification Issue Holds Up Vote in House on Family-Planning Bill
WASHINGTON--A House vote on reauthorizing the primary federal family-planning program was stalled last week by a proposed amendment that would require clinics to notify a parent when an underage client seeks an abortion.
The Title X program funds more than 4,000 family-planning clinics serving 4.3 million clients per year, of which about one-third are teenagers.
The amendment would require Title X grantees to notify at least one parent 48 hours before an abortion can be performed on an "unemancipated minor.'' It makes exceptions for women who have been abused, raped, or are in medical danger.
The House was set to vote last week on Title X, which has been funded for years without formal authorization due to abortion-related conflicts. With a Democrat in the White House, supporters expect to win approval for a bill this year, but opted to delay a floor vote after the House Rules Committee approved a voting procedure that would allow Rep. Thomas J. Bliley, R-Va., to offer the parental-notification amendment.
"I just don't think we should force a 13- or 14-year-old child to go it alone in this decision, which will have lifelong ramifications,'' Mr. Bliley said in a letter to fellow lawmakers last month.
Opponents of the amendment argue that restrictions on clinics are a violation of a woman's right to privacy, and that "you cannot mandate good family communication,'' in the words of Sally Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Opponents also argue that the amendment would pre-empt state authority, disputing Mr. Bliley's claim that it would not affect five states that already have parental-consent or -notification statutes.
Administration sources said that supporters decided to delay consideration because "the ducks were not in line'' to defeat the amendment.
Congressional supporters of the family-planning bill are arguing to fellow lawmakers that Title X has "nothing to do with abortion,'' aides said. Title X, which received $173 million in fiscal 1993, pays for a variety of contraceptive and medical services, and for referrals for prenatal care and abortions, but it does not directly fund abortion procedures.
The Bliley amendment presents an uncomfortable dilemma for members who do not want to appear to oppose parents' rights.
"Members don't want to say 'I voted to take parents out of the discussion,''' said an aide to one Democratic representative.
Congressional Democrats say a vote on the bill, and the amendment, should occur in the next few weeks.
Senate aides said supporters of the bill are discussing ways to invalidate the Bliley amendment should it pass in the House.
Vol. 12, Issue 23, Page 28