Health Issues Surface as Congress Heads Home As Congress prepares for a recess to go campaigning, a number of lingering health issues are making an appearance, including laws regarding interstate abortions and cross-border prescription drug traffic.
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Health Issues Surface as Congress Heads Home

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Health Issues Surface as Congress Heads Home

Health Issues Surface as Congress Heads Home

Health Issues Surface as Congress Heads Home

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As Congress prepares for a recess to go campaigning, a number of lingering health issues are making an appearance, including laws regarding interstate abortions and cross-border prescription drug traffic.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Julie Rovner has this report.

JULIE ROVNER: It's a mark of how little the 109th Congress has to show on healthcare that one of the signal achievements simply restores what used to be the status quo. For years, customs officials simply looked the other way when Americans returned from Canada with medications they'd purchased at that country's government-controlled prices. But last year, says Missouri Republican Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, something changed.

JO ANN EMERSON: Customs and Border Patrol has been seizing some drugs on these buses that take senior citizens across the Canadian border to pick up their drugs at those lower cost pharmacies.

ROVNER: In the end, Emerson compromised. She agreed to language allowing only medications carried back by the patient, not by mail, and only from Canada.

ANN EMERSON: We needed to get our foot in the door and just incrementally move re-importation along. And because these are senior citizens who are living on a fixed income who have already paid for their drugs, to have them seized is ridiculous. So that's all that we'll accomplish with this amendment to the Homeland Security bill, but it is a good first step.

ROVNER: Specifically, the House basically re-passed a bill it already passed once this Congress aimed at making it harder for teenage girls to get abortions without their parents' knowledge. Part of the bill would make it a crime to take a minor across state lines for an abortion if the girl's home state has a law requiring her parents be notified or give consent. Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner said it would protect girls from those who would exploit them.

JAMES SENSENBRENNER: This provision will prevent abusive boyfriends and older men, who may have committed rape, from pressuring young girls into receiving secret out-of-state abortions to keep the abusers' sexual crimes hidden from authorities.

ROVNER: The other part of the bill would require abortion providers, even in states without parental involvement laws, to nonetheless notify parents at least 24 hours before providing an abortion to a minor from another state. Opponents of the measure, like New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, said the bill goes too far.

JERROLD NADLER: Not since the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 have we used the power of the federal government to enforce the laws of one state on the territory of another.

ROVNER: Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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