The battle between abortion rights and anti-abortion is back on the California ballot.
Proposition 4 would require a doctor to notify at least one parent before performing an abortion for minors. The pregnant teenager can choose to notify certain adult relatives instead of a parent, but the law would require the doctor to report the parent to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.
Those in favor of the proposition believe a mentor or parent who is aware of the girl’s situation can help her pick the best option and work through the problems.
“Our initiative is only to notify [the parents] and making sure they are aware of what’s going on,” said Albin Rhomberg, spokesperson of Yes on Prop 4. “Clinics [other on the other hand] do not intervene.… It’s usually just a visit and they don’t know anything about the minor’s life.“
Statistics from other states with laws requiring parental involvement actually showed a lower number of abortions as well as sexually transmitted diseases, Rhomberg said.
When parents are involved they know what their children are up to, Rhomberg said. This could help prevent reckless behavior like drug and alcohol use that may lead to predators and exploitation of minors, he said.
Opponents say there are serious problems with the proposition.
“The legislation is very misleading,” said UC Davis sociology professor Carole Joffe. “The other side would say if you can’t tell your parents, the legislation allows you to tell another adult. The problem is the proposition also says if a teenager involves another adult and doesn’t involve a parent, the clinic has to file an abuse report on those parents.“
The majority of teenagers tell at least one parent their situation, Joffe said.
“I am opposed to Proposition 4 because I don’t think it will benefit teenagers,” she said. “There’s been a lot of research that shows that the majority of teenagers tell at least one parent, if not two. Those who do not tell their parents do it for a good reason, like parental violence.“
In addition, a minor who wishes to have an abortion would have to wait at least 48 hours after a physician has notified the minor’s parent. However, teenagers in an abusive family may be at risk, opponents say.
“A 48-hour waiting period might further deter [girls living in violent homes] from either seeking help or exercising their right for seeking an abortion,” said Lisa Ikemoto, a UC Davis law professor. “They fear the consequences and the parental notification requirement will put them in danger.“
Ikemoto said she is not taking a public position on the measure, but Prop 4 may become a social status issue for women.
“It will encourage those who support restriction on abortion rights to seek further restrictions and would have a negative impact on women’s rights,” she said. “It’s a relatively small number of people seeking abortion, but exercising control over your own body is an important aspect of liberty. If it’s restricted for women and girls, then women and girls would be treated differently [from men].“
The argument behind this proposition is that there are justifications on imposing greater restrictions on minors because they are younger, she added.
“Everybody, regardless of age, has their constitutional rights,” Ikemoto said.
For more information on Prop 4, visit voterguide.sos.ca.gov.
JANET HUNG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.