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Abortion least-known measure in California ballot

November 2, 2005

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California, seen as one of the most
sexually liberated U.S. states, could limit teenagers’ access
to abortion next week in the least known but most divisive
ballot measure in a lackluster special election.

Proposition 73 asks voters to decide whether doctors should
be required by law to notify parents or guardians of girls
under 18, 48 hours before they can legally perform abortions or
administer the so-called morning-after pill RU-486.

Proponents of the November 8 ballot measure — a coalition
of anti-abortion groups, family organizations and the Catholic
and some Protestant churches — say it is about parental rights
and the protection of children.

“Parents are not the enemy,” said Stan Devereux, spokesman
for YesonProp73.

“If children need to get permission to receive an aspirin
at school or parental permission to leave school grounds for a
field trip, it makes sense that mom or dad should be notified
that their young daughter is going to have a serious surgical
procedure such as abortion,” Devereux said.

California has the 7th highest rate of teen pregnancy in
the United States and the 4th highest rate of teen abortions.
If the measure passes, California will join 34 other U.S.
states that require parents to consent or be notified of a
minor’s abortion.

Opponents — Planned Parenthood, the American Academy of
Pediatrics and others — say that like most issues surrounding
the controversial topic, Proposition 73 is not that
straightforward.

They say that some pregnant teens do not want to involve
their parents because they fear getting beaten up. Imposing
parental notification could mean girls delaying medical care or
trying to provoke their own abortions, they say.

DROWNED OUT

What worries those in the “No” camp most is that the
measure would insert language into the California state
constitution that defines abortion as the death of “a child
conceived but not yet born.”

If passed — and Proposition 73 is too close to call in
opinion polls — this language could be used to challenge the
legality of hormonal birth control pills and open the way to
interpreting abortion as murder, opponents say. Backers of the
measure deny any back-door assault on wider abortion rights.

“I think there is an attempt at manipulation which is very
dangerous and people don’t really understand the legal
implications of this,” said Curren Warf, a Los Angeles
specialist in adolescent medicine.

“At first blush, who would be against parental
notification? Most (pregnant) kids do talk to their parents.
About 30 percent of those who don’t have already experienced
some family violence, so for some there is a real risk of being
physically punished or kicked out of the house,” Warf said.

Despite emotions running high on both sides, Proposition 73
has been drowned out by the noise surrounding California
governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s initiatives on teacher tenure,
union political contributions, the state budget and
redistricting.

“It has been very slow to get the attention we think it
deserves,” said Kathy Kneer, president of Planned Parenthood
Affiliates of California which lacks the funds for a TV blitz.




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