Parental notification could be required for abortions

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A proposition on the Nov. 8 special election ballot that could change abortion laws in California would require consent from parents for minors to receive abortions and change the definition of abortion in the state’s constitution.

If passed the initiative will require any physician treating a pregnant minor to notify her parents or legal guardian 48 hours before performing an abortion. Proposition 73 would also change the definition of abortion in the state constitution to “the killing of an unborn child.”

Jan Marquard, CSUN part-time professor of women’s health and director of school health services at the Northeast Valley Corporation, works with teens of all ages. She said the proposition was not designed in the best interests of teens.

“This is a step in the wrong direction,” Marquard said. “Parents and teens should talk to each other, but legislating that (communication) is wrong.”

Marquard said she works with pregnant teens first-hand. She administers pregnancy tests and provides the young women with resources that include birth control, prenatal care, adoption services and abortion.

She said when she first started out at the clinics, about 10 percent of young women coming in would have abortions, and now that number has gone up to nearly 50 percent.

“They know there is a safe place to go, and that they will not die or become infertile because of the abortion,” Marquard said.

She also said in all her years of working with teenage pregnancy, she did not recall the last time she saw a parent with their teen enter the clinic.

Monica, who declined to reveal her last name, said she remembered when she was 15 years old and had an abortion. She said she feared her mother’s reactions because she was raised in a strict Latino household, and added that she has still not told her mother.

“One of the main reasons I didn’t tell my mom was out of fear,” said Monica, a Mission College student transferring to CSUN as a nursing major. “I was very young and I knew I wouldn’t know what to do. Maybe she would have sent me to Central America.”

Rachel Levitt, a double major in communication studies and women’s studies, said she, along with other CSUN women’s studies students, Planned Parenthood and the Feminist Majority Foundation, are organizing to educate voters on Proposition 73.

“This proposition is one step in the process of potentially making abortion illegal, and in the current political climate, that is a scary reality,” Levitt said.

Levitt also said statistics show that between 11 and 20 percent of teenage pregnancies are the direct result of rape.

“If (the girls) feel like they cannot tell their parents, or God forbid, it was their father or brother who got them pregnant, they should have access to safe health care,” Levitt said. “This law is not going to make them tell, but force them to turn to unsafe, improper means.”

Yes on 73 is a group whose members include William P. Clark, California Supreme Court Justice, and which supports the proposition.

In the proposition’s official summary in the voter guide, the group said Proposition 73 allows for parents to care for and protect their daughters.

“In California, a daughter under 18 cannot get an aspirin from the school nurse – without a parent knowing, yet surgical or chemical abortions can be performed in secret,” Yes on 73 wrote in a legislative summary.

They also wrote that more than one million signatures were submitted to allow the proposition to be placed on the November ballot.

Although Proposition 73 is not part of the governor’s reform package, he made remarks last month that expressed his opinion on the matter.

“I have a daughter,” the governor said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. “I wouldn’t want someone to take my daughter to the hospital for an abortion or something, and not tell me.”

“I would kill them,” Schwarzenegger added.

The governor later clarified he did not mean the statement in the literal sense, but he continues to support the initiative.

For now, Levitt and her colleagues said they would continue to fight Proposition 73 through volunteer work, phone banking and by getting the word out to young women.

Since the initiative would amending the California constitution, it cannot be repealed.

“This is about a bigger issue,” Levitt said. “Once a women has the ability to bring a life into this world, she should be able to make decisions.”

Since 1953, state law has allowed minors to receive all the same services as adults. In one of the last cases reviewed regarding the issue, the Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that forced parental consent for abortions was unconstitutional.

Lynne Fishel, public relations director for the California Family Council, said the initiative is meant to require notification, not parental consent.

“I think the idea behind the initiative is that parents should know what minors are doing,” Fishel said.

Fishel said her organization supports the notification of parents when it comes to abortion, and believes the focus should be on the unborn child and the family unit.

“We are a pro-life organization, focused on parental rights,” Fishel said. “Parents should know what is going on with their children in any activity, especially something as serious as that. Proponents of this initiative would hope for this to cause some abortions to not take place.”

As Monica thought back on her experience, now nearly eight years ago, she said if parental consent would have been required at the time of her abortion, she would have opted for other means.

“I probably would have tried to find somebody, a parent of a close friend, or an adult I trusted, but there is no way I would have told my parents,” she said. “I would have tried to lie my way through the system.”

Connie Llanos can be reached at connie.llanos.600@csun.edu.