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Lungren Urges Ballot Measure on Abortions

Politics: Attorney general says voters should decide whether women 18 and younger need parents' consent. But Democratic majority in Legislature opposes such a move.

April 15, 1998|DAVE LESHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren urged the Legislature on Tuesday to let voters decide on this November's ballot whether abortions for women under the age of 18 should require parental consent. Lungren, the only major GOP candidate in this year's race for governor, acknowledged that the idea faces an uphill battle because it is opposed by Democrats who control both houses of the state Legislature.

One state Senate committee rejected such legislation just hours after Lungren's comments.

Still, the attorney general said it is important to spotlight Democratic opposition to a proposal that is popular in public surveys. He also suggested that there is a link between the proliferation of youth violence and the lack of such adult supervision.

"When we see people questioning how children can kill children, how can we think that sending a message to children that they can do as they please--even to the extent of not notifying their parent of such a serious act--will do anything but break down those basic values that are the underpinnings of our heritage and our civilization?" Lungren asked reporters at a Capitol news conference Tuesday morning.

The debate about parental consent for abortions has become a rallying cry for some Republican groups since the state Supreme Court rejected such a law in August. The court said a 1987 bill passed by the Legislature but never enforced was an unconstitutional violation of the right to privacy.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 16, 1998 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Abortion legislation--A headline in Wednesday's Times inaccurately stated details of abortion issues that California Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren urged the Legislature to address in a November ballot measure. Lungren said voters should decide whether girls under 18 need the consent of a parent to get an abortion.

Soon after the decision, conservative activists tried unsuccessfully to qualify an initiative for the ballot similar to the one Lungren outlined Tuesday. Lungren said the failure was due to technical difficulties, not a lack of support for the idea.

Since then, GOP activists have also tried to organize a campaign to unseat two of the concurring Supreme Court justices--Ronald George and Ming Chin--when they come up for reelection in November.

Lungren has decided to stay neutral on the judges' election. On Tuesday, he said the proper response to the court decision is to amend the Constitution in a way that would meet the privacy standards outlined by the justices.

That attempt is included in pending legislation by Sen. Tim Leslie (R-Carnelian Bay) and Assembly Republican Leader Bill Leonard (R-San Bernardino).

Leslie's bill was rejected Tuesday in a 4-3 vote along party lines by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Assembly version is still pending.

The proposal would require women under the age of 18 to obtain permission from a parent before receiving an abortion. In certain circumstances, it would also allow the requirement to be waived by a judge.

Because the legislation would amend the Constitution, it would not become law without a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature and a successful ballot measure.

Democrats were quick to criticize Lungren's action as a politically motivated response to recent polls that show his support among Republicans to be weak. A recent Times poll showed the attorney general supported by just more than half of the state's GOP voters.

"That's the fear that's lurking in Lungren's strategy," said Art Torres, chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Republican officials acknowledged that Lungren's pitch reflects a GOP strategy to split the abortion debate into mini-battles--like parental consent--where the GOP position is popular in polls.

A Los Angeles Times poll last fall found that 67% of California voters agree that women under 18 should obtain their parents' consent before receiving an abortion.

Republicans said they have found similar majorities supporting their stand against abortions in the third trimester, public funding to provide abortions to poor women and abortions for sex selection.

Democrats are also divided on the issue of parental consent for abortions.

Among the three Democrats running for governor, two are opposed to a parental consent requirement and one--Al Checchi--supports the idea if there is broad discretion for judicial waivers.

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