Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

CA Proposition 4: Parental Notification

I'm dismayed to see this one come up again, because it's the third time in a four years, its proponents are very deceptive and its consequences could be dire. Here's the official summary:


Changes California Constitution to prohibit abortion for unemancipated minor until 48 hours after physician notifies minor’s parent or legal guardian.

Permits notification to certain adult relatives if doctor reports parent to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.

Provides notification exceptions for medical emergency or parental waiver.

Permits courts to waive notice based on clear and convincing evidence of minor’s maturity or best interests.

Mandates reporting requirements, including reports from physicians regarding abortions on minors.

Authorizes damages against physicians for violation.

Requires minor’s consent to abortion, with exceptions.

Prop. 4 endangers teens, and is opposed by The American Academy of Pediatrics (California District), The California Medical Association, The California Association Of Family Physicians, The American College Of Obstetricians And Gynecologists (District Ix), The California Nurses Association, The California Teachers Association, The California Association of School Counselors and Planned Parenthood.

Calitics has a few posts on this, and Digby in "Punishment For Being Human" really covers it all:

It is very dispiriting that California's Prop 4 requiring parental notification for abortions seems to be in danger of passage considering how how high the stakes are for some of the most vulnerable people in our population. It seems that the anti-choice forces are on the verge of another successful chipping away of a woman's right to own her own body and choose her own reproductive future…

…Let me just say that it is a tragedy for any teenager to be forced to bear a child against her will. And that is a very likely outcome for some girls if this proposition passes.

Everyone would prefer that a young woman or girl would have a relationship with her parents that would allow her to seek their help and support if she became pregnant. Many girls probably have that. But an awful lot of them don't. They have abusive parents or those whose values would require them to make an irrevocable decision to bear a child against her will. Girls are, by definition, immature and don't always understand how time works --- they live in denial past the moment when they can explore all their options. Being kids, they don't fully understand the consequences of failing to face reality, and if they have to confide in their parents they may wait longer than they otherwise would, out of embarrassment or fear. And, of course, there is the problem of incest and abuse, which makes it nearly impossible for some girls to tell their parents…

The bottom line is that if this passes, a lot of girls lives are going to be ruined because they couldn't tell their parents, or thought they couldn't tell their parents, and they waited until it was too late. It's just how teenagers are. It could result in a new form of back alley abortion, with girls going to dicey, unregulated practitioners so they don't have to face their folks. It will cause tragedies in any numbers of ways.

Digby has more on how this measure fits into the larger anti-abortion movement and its agenda of social control, so I'd recommend reading the whole thing.

Here's the No on 4 website, which allows you to donate to the cause.

Prop. 4 Ad Watch

For what it's worth, I believe I've only seen one of these air to date. There are Spanish versions of some of them as well.

Yes on 4 "Sexual Predators" Ad (posted 10/2/08):

As Digby notes, the sexual predator ad is a "dishonest, manipulative piece of garbage." The No on 4 site and their rebuttal in the Voter Guide explains why.

No on 4 "Jane's Journey" Ad (posted 10/9/08):

Although it's low-tech, I think this does a good job of explaining the practical obstacles this law would impose.

No on 4 "Bubble" ad (posted 10/14/08). This is the only one I think I've seen air so far:

A similar ad ran back in 2006. I think it gets right to the point.

Yes on 4 "Bubble" Ad (posted 10/15/08):

No on 4 "Gloria Molina" Ad (posted 10/21/08):

No on 4 "Room" Ad (posted 10/22/08):


The Voter Guide and No on 4 have more information, but this Mercury News Editorial (linked by the No on 4 site) really highlights how deceptive the backers are and the consequences:

From top to bottom, Proposition 4 is the most deceptive measure on the California ballot this fall.

It might look like yet another well-meaning but misguided effort - the third in four years - to force minors to notify their parents before seeking an abortion. But this year's version is more insidious. Voters should run to the polls in November to reject it.

The proposition's misleading nature starts out with its name: Sarah's Law. Supporters want you to hear the sobering story of "Sarah," a 15-year-old girl who didn't tell her parents she was pregnant and then died after an abortion. Except "Sarah" didn't live in California. She lived in Texas and was considered to be married under Texas law, so any parental notification law wouldn't have applied to her. And her name isn't Sarah, it's Jamie Garcia Yanez-Villegas.

Most telling of all, her tragic death took place in 1994. That means when Proposition 4 backers went looking for a story to illustrate the need for a parental notification law, they couldn't find a better example in the last decade.

The need for this kind of law in California is wildly exaggerated. Less than 3 percent of California's teenage girls become pregnant every year, and it's well-documented that the vast majority tell their parents. Those who don't often have a good reason. They fear violent reactions or being thrown out of their homes. They are also the most likely to be victims of rape or incest.

These are the girls who most need help. But Proposition 4 threatens to make their tragic circumstance worse by giving them two choices - one worse than the other.

Girls can go before a judge and try to persuade him or her that their parents shouldn't be informed. Navigating the courts scares the bejabbers out of most adults, let alone already frightened teenagers. And delays while they think it over could pose a threat to their health.

That's bad enough, but the alternative offered by Proposition 4 represents a new low. It says pregnant girls can tell "certain adult relatives" - but to be able to receive an abortion, they also have to tell a doctor in writing that they have been victims of child abuse. That would automatically trigger a response by police. So a girl trying to deal with a pregnancy could quickly be mired in a child abuse investigation involving the parents she was afraid to talk to in the first place.
Given those options, teenagers are far more likely to take matters into their own hands, either seeking an abortion in another state or, worse, looking for a back-room abortion. In the old days before Roe v. Wade established a woman's right to choose, these back-room, often unsanitary procedures were common. Many girls and women died or were left sterile as a result.

California has a proud history of putting the health and safety of a child before a parent's right to know - not just for abortions but in cases of drug abuse, mental illness and sexually transmitted disease.

Reducing the number of teenage abortions is an excellent goal. The way to make that happen is through education and effective contraception - not by preying on the most troubled of pregnant teens to make a political point.

I understand and am sympathetic to parental anxiety, but I'm also familiar with how parental anxiety can lead to very bad decisions with dire consequences – in some cases, the precise opposite of what was intended. Meanwhile, when a group lies as much as the Yes on Prop. 4 does, it's a little warning sign not to trust them. A family with trust and communications doesn't need Prop. 4. Girls without that type of family – and especially those subject to physical and/or sexual abuse – will be greatly harmed by it. No on Prop. 4 and this underhanded, dangerous effort yet again.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

In Alabama, there are several "Pregnancy Test Centers" which attempt to brainwash women into either opting for adoption or keeping their children, by scaring them away from abortions.

It would be nice if we could legislate them away.