Three weeks ago today I lost faith in California. In the November special election, Proposition 73 was voted out by a narrow margin of 53 to 47 percent. The initiative sought to change abortion law in California by requiring consent from parents for minors to receive abortions and change the definition of abortion in the state’s constitution.
If passed, the initiative would have required physicians treating a pregnant minor to notify her parents or legal guardians 48 hours before performing an abortion. The initiative would have also amended the constitution to define abortion as death “of a child conceived but not yet born.”
The argument for Proposition 73 was that parental consent for minors is in the interest of the “child.” As Rob Pennington from the Right to Life of Central California said, “this is about protecting our girls from sexual predators and abortion providers.” I wonder how many Planned Parenthoods he has been to in order to come to the conclusion that abortion providers and sexual predators belong in the same sentence.
Supporters of the proposition said that if it was their daughters seeking an abortion they would want to know about it. Governor Schwarzenegger told a Sacramento Bee reporter that he would kill someone if they took his daughter to get an abortion without telling him. Considering the history of violent attacks on abortion providers in this country, he couldn’t have made a more poignant response.
And why shouldn’t legislation be needed for parents to know what goes on with their children? Next thing you know there will be laws that force us to have dinner together, and prescribe a certain amount of “family time.” Why should they need legislation to force their children to tell them what is going on? They must not realize that for some girls, telling their parents about a teenage pregnancy is not an option.
Texas approved a similar parental consent law six years ago. Supporters of the proposition said that the state had seen a significant reduction in the numbers of teenage pregnancies as a result of the law.
This does not necessarily mean a reduction in abortions though. It could mean that girls are simply traveling to other states, or south of the border, and having abortions performed there. Scarier still, would be to see us go back to the days of coat hangers in kitchens and home remedies to terminate pregnancies.
The lesser talked about proposal within the initiative was the amending of the constitution. Proposition 73 proposed to amend the states’ definition of abortion. If we begin to define the fetus as an unborn child, how soon will women begin to be tried for murder when they have an abortion?
It is the particular argument of exactly when the fetus becomes a child that has been the center of the abortion debate. Currently, President Bush has made it a part of his personal agenda to discreetly decide that the fetus is equal to a child. He outlawed abortions in the third trimester, and has signed legislation which specifically stretches the definition of a child to the unborn.
It is necessary to mention the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood of South Pennsylvania v. Casey. The case gave states the right to regulate abortion so long as it doesn’t “place undue burden” on the woman. The court defined undue burden as a “significant obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.” In the 13 years since this case more than 200 regulations have taken place in relation to state access to abortions.
These same conservatives, who are so intent on reducing teenage pregnancies are the same “pro-life” advocates who suggest fewer tax increases, and fewer social programs to protect these teenage mothers and their babies they are so insistent in “protecting.” These are the same people that want to abolish sex education programs in public schools. What do they know about being a scared teenage girl, with a whole life ahead of her, realizing she’s pregnant, and not knowing what to do?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have known many young women on both ends of this argument. Some of them chose to have their babies, and take on the life of a teenage mother, and some of them chose to have abortions.
No matter what they chose they may forever wonder about the “what if’s”. But the important thing is that they had a choice, and that is something no one has the right to take away.
Connie Llanos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.