SACRAMENTO — After an emotional and bitter debate, a legislative subcommittee on Monday night rejected a bill that would require pregnant minors to get parental permission before obtaining abortions, unless they could persuade a judge that they were "sufficiently mature" to make the decision themselves.
On a 4-1 vote, the Assembly judiciary subcommittee on the administration of justice decided against moving the measure by Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) to the full committee.
Under ordinary circumstances, such an action would kill the bill, which passed the Senate last June. However, abortion is not an ordinary issue, and anti-abortion legislators on Monday night were already vowing to try to revive the measure, when the 10-member Judiciary Committee meets today. The full committee could vote to pull the Montoya bill out of the subcommittee.
While saying that he supported the right of adult women to choose abortions, Montoya argued that his bill was intended to preserve the authority of parents to help make the decision on whether their daughters' pregnancies should be carried to term or ended with an abortion.
"We ought to opt for parents' being involved more, rather than less," he testified.
The bill, supported by Gov. George Deukmejian, is sponsored by the Women's Lobby, an anti-abortion group.
Opponents argued that the measure might send large numbers of teen-age girls to "back-alley abortionists" and would not reunite already divided families.
The legislation would ban abortions for unmarried women under the age of 18, unless they have the approval of one parent or a legal guardian. The bill would create an exception for medical emergencies. In addition, minors who are turned down by their parents or are too frightened to talk to them at all could, under the proposal, contact county child welfare agencies and petition the courts to grant them an abortion.
The bill would provide for fines of up to $1,000 and/or a jail sentence of up to 30 days for any physician who performed an abortion on a juvenile without parental or judicial consent.
Federal courts have struck down measures in other states that simply prohibited abortions to minors without parental consent, unless they were allowed to make their case in court.
"We could come up with a law every week, every day, every hour and it does nothing to get to the root cause of the problem," said Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), a subcommittee member who voted against the measure. She and other lawmakers who opposed the bill argued that there was a need for more sex education to prevent pregnancies and for programs that encourage family discussion of sexual issues.
However, Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk), the only subcommittee member to support the bill, protested that "a young minor child should have parental consent" for abortion.
Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd G. Connelly (D-Sacramento) said 23 other states have a parental consent law somewhat like the one proposed by Montoya. He noted, though, that the evidence was not conclusive whether such legislation, in fact, reduces abortions among minors.
In addition to Waters and Connelly, those who voted against the bill included Assemblyman Elihu M. Harris (D-Oakland) and Assemblywoman Sunny Mojonnier (R-Encinitas).
Jamie Ann Sabino, an attorney from Massachusetts, testified that that state's 1981 parental consent law "has not changed (abortion) behavior."
At the hearing, Virginia Preston of Yuba City charged that a schoolteacher had encouraged her daughter to obtain an abortion without first talking it over with her parents.
"My daughter was counseled she could get an abortion without telling me--it would be quick, simple and easy," she said.
The mother learned about the abortion when the girl needed to be hospitalized due to an infection following the abortion.
"It was not quick, simple or easy," she said bitterly.
The family is suing the school district.
Frank Mendiola described the death of his twin sister in 1971 after an illegal abortion. The girl was 14 at the time and pregnant after being raped by six men, Mendiola testified. Her Catholic family would not agree to an abortion, so she turned to a "back-alley" abortionist.