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Proposition 4 protects girls

October 03, 2008|Margaret Pearson | Margaret Pearson is communications director for the Yes on Four campaign.

Once again, California voters will be given the opportunity to vote on an initiative -- Proposition 4 -- that would require family involvement when a girl under the age of 18 is facing a decision about abortion. And once again, opponents are using scare tactics to prevent Californians from protecting our daughters.

This year's measure is a refinement of earlier attempts that sought the same thing -- that girls not face such a difficult decision alone. The coalition of doctors, nurses, educators and law enforcement behind Proposition 4 have made several changes to answer criticisms, most notably that a physician may notify another family member if parental abuse is suspected. That, after all, was the rallying cry of opponents to the last parental involvement initiative -- that a child would be in danger if an abusive parent were notified.

But despite the changes, the same hard-core opposition remains -- not because opponents are worried about the welfare of children but because they are opposed to anything they see as a limitation on abortion, even when it comes to very young girls.

Never mind that a minor girl is ill-equipped to deal with this situation on her own. Never mind that keeping parents or family members out of the loop could endanger the child's life because of an inadequate medical history or a post-abortion complication. And never mind that the child could be the victim of sexual abuse or coercion -- a situation that no-questions-asked abortion rules may only exacerbate.

Don't kid yourself into thinking that abortion providers take care to deal with such situations. Recently, in a California Supreme Court case, a 13-year-old Santa Clara County girl was impregnated by her stepfather, forced by him to undergo a late-term surgical abortion and returned to the predator for seven more months of abuse. The child twice visited a Planned Parenthood Clinic and had the abortion at San Francisco General, but it was not until the girl's mother accidentally discovered evidence of the abortion that police were called and the predator arrested. Where were the "teen safety" folks in this case?

Had Proposition 4 been in effect, the doctor would have had to ask the girl who to notify, with biological parents and other relatives first in line. While it's conceivable that the stepfather's coercion would have gone undiscovered, it's much more likely that his crimes would have come to light and that her mother would have been brought into the process in time to prevent months of abuse.

The elements of Proposition 4 are just good common sense, and it in no way infringes on a girl's right to an abortion. It does not require parental consent, only notification (though California law does require parental consent for a minor to obtain body piercing, go to a tanning salon, be given an aspirin at school or participate in a school field trip). In addition, the initiative provides for a "judicial waiver" for any teen wishing to avoid parental notification -- a process already proven to work well in other states.

Those who oppose Proposition 4 want to confuse voters with the red herring that this isn't about child safety but merely an anti-choice, anti-abortion measure. The truth is, Proposition 4 would bring California in line with 34 other states where similar rules have a proven track record of decreasing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Don't let the members of the opposition -- who are the ones with the real ideological ax to grind -- fool you about Proposition 4.

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