SACRAMENTO — Sponsors of a bill to require an unwed teen-ager to obtain parental consent or court approval before having an abortion won a crucial test of strength in the Senate Wednesday when opponents failed in an effort to add potentially crippling amendments.
If the amendments had been adopted, the entire bill would have been returned to the Assembly for almost certain defeat.
The bill previously had passed the Assembly for the first time in history with the help of a maneuver that kept the measure from being considered in the liberal Judiciary Committee, where similar proposals had been rejected several times in the past.
With the Senate's defeat of the proposed amendments, the way was cleared for the upper house to consider the full bill today. Senate passage would send the measure to Gov. George Deukmejian, who supports it, according to gubernatorial Press Secretary Kevin Brett.
The opponents' tactic Wednesday amounted to a California-style filibuster, bottling up the measure for most of the day, even though both sides agreed that the Senate was sure to pass it eventually. The votes against all three amendments were lopsided.
Sen. Barry Keene (D-Benicia), the author of one of the amendments, said he knew the effort would fail. But Keene said he and the others resorted to the delaying strategy rather than quietly stand by as abortion opponents won what may be their most important legislative victory in years.
"The alternative is to simply fold and not raise these issues," Keene said. "But they're too important as social issues to let that happen."
Keene's amendment would have exempted from the bill's requirements girls who were impregnated by their fathers. To require such girls to obtain their parent's permission for an abortion would only heighten their trauma, he argued.
But proponents of the bill, though conceding that Keene's point was valid, insisted that incest victims could be handled through a provision in the bill that would allow a court, in place of the pregnant girl's parents, to authorize an abortion. The amendment was defeated on a 23-15 vote.
Another proposed amendment, by Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), would have made several changes in the bill to correct what Watson described as technical errors that left the measure "fatally flawed." Her amendment was defeated 23 to 12.
Proponents also rejected a third amendment, by Sen. Alfred E. Alquist (D-San Jose), that would have joined the parental consent bill to a companion measure so that both would have to pass and be signed for either to become law. The vote against it was 22 to 13.
Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-Whittier), who sponsored the bill on the Senate floor, characterized all three amendments as transparent attempts to kill the bill by sending it back to the Assembly.
"Whatever miracle or scientific method it took to get a parental consent bill out of the Assembly and into the Senate, it is here," Montoya said. "It is important that the measure go directly to the governor, rather than be amended and turned back to the Assembly, where its fate would most certainly be death."
The bill's author technically is Assemblyman Robert Frazee (R-Carlsbad), although the anti-abortion provisions originated with Assemblyman Phillip Wyman (R-Tehachapi).