Once again, Californians at the polls will have to decide what matters more: a girl’s right to privacy, or her parents’ right to know?
This November, Proposition 85, waiting period and parental notification before termination of a minor’s pregnancy, looms. It is the reincarnation of Proposition 73, which was narrowly defeated in 2005. The difference was only 5.6 percent of voters.
I can see why parents would want to know that their daughter will have an abortion. I understand their concerns. I would want to know too. But here’s the catch: I want my future daughters to come to me on their own free will, not because the law said it must be so. Parents who feel so fiercely that they have a right to know what is going on in their children’s sex lives might want to take a look before it gets to the clinic stage. My parent’s weren’t excited about the prospect of their little girl fooling around, but they weren’t stupid either. They knew something was going on.
I think we all know how good the law is at keeping teenagers from doing what they want. Nobody under the legal age of 21 has sipped alcohol, have they? Of course not. They haven’t touched cigarettes without showing identification either. Or had sex before they turned 18, no ? that would be statutory rape. But if the law is so good at making us all behave and follow the rules, why are we discussing – once again – abortions for minors?
Proponents of Proposition 85 worry about sexual predators. Know where your daughters are and what they are doing, and the opportunity for predation lowers remarkably. Foster an environment where, should disaster happen, your daughter can come to you immediately. With the advent of emergency contraception, there is no excuse for pregnancy resulting from rape. Be a parent and make sure things are taken care of. Supporters claim that pregnancy and abortion rates will drop. Well, abortion rates might. At least abortions performed in safe, legitimate clinics. Again, which is the worse evil: Forcing an unprepared young girl to bring a child into the world, or termination before the problem gets worse? Potentially ruin two lives, or end one that has not yet begun?
Abortion is against our religion, they might say. Yeah, well what does it say about premarital sex? One taboo has already been broken, what will one more hurt? The state can’t legislate good communication. You can’t squeeze a teenager’s trust from a voting booth, no matter how hard you try. Proposition 85 would have Californians believe that it can reach into the hearts of those affected, and make the world a shiny place again.
This issue has been around since 1953, when the courts granted minors access to all “hospital, medical and surgical care related to pregnancy.” The right to private sexual healthcare for minors has been brought up each decade since. In the 1990s, it was known as Assembly Bill 2274, an amendment requiring the consent of at least one parent or guardian before an abortion could be performed. That bill passed, but was then declared unconstitutional. Then Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the majority: “Because the decision whether to continue or terminate her pregnancy has such a substantial effect on a pregnant minor’s control over her personal bodily integrity, has such serious long-term consequences in determining her life choices, is so central to the preservation of her ability to define and adhere to her ultimate values regarding the meaning of human existence and life .., we conclude that a minor who is pregnant has a protected privacy interest under the California Constitution in making the decision …”
Courts generally follow stare decisis, which is Latin for “to stand by that which is decided.” Courts respect the previous decisions and rulings on issues. So far, this practice has been followed, but the fact that parental notification keeps rearing its head gives me pause. At what point do we stop trying to change a decision that has already been made?
The decision has taken place in the polls, the courts, and in the hearts of our children. If a young woman has made the decision to be sexually active, and made decisions regarding protection that led her to pregnancy, and made the decision to call a clinic, what else does a parent think they can do? They can’t unmake the first decisions. They can try to influence the last, but the girl has probably had enough turmoil by this point.
My mother can tell by the tone of my voice when something is wrong. And she asks about it, with her special blend of concern and nosiness. She is the first person I would tell if I became pregnant, the person that I would turn to for help. That comes from what she has earned as a parent, not what hasbeen given by a Proposition.