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Monday, September 29, 2008

Proposition 4, Parental Notification, Has an 8 Point Lead in Latest Field Poll

California is vastly different from most states. Case in point, parental notification for abortions. The issue is one of the slam-dunks for opponents to abortion. In state-after-state they put these type of initiatives on the ballot and win them easily. But not in California. Twice before abortion opponents have put parental notification measures on the ballot in California and twice before the California voters have defeated them.

Is this time different? Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll thinks so.

Right now is it ahead by a 49-41 margin with 10 percent undecided. However after we have mentioned before on this blog, late breaking voters and undecideds tend to oppose new initiative. However, this issue may be a bit different.

Mark DiCamillo points to two factors--the Latino Voters and the Presidential Election.
"If there's a shift going on, it's coming from the Latino voters. Because this is a presidential election, Latino voters will constitute a larger proportion of the turnout than was true two years ago."
According to the Field Poll, Latinos are even more strongly in favor of this measure than they were a few years ago. According to DiCamillo, Latino voters are expected to be 17 percent of the electorate in November. The poll indicates they favoring the measure 62 percent to 31 percent. That 31 point margin is somewhat higher than it was in 2006 when it was 22 percentage points.

Proposition 4 is a parental notification law rather than a parental consent law. That means when a minor requests an abortion from a doctor, the doctor must send a letter to her parents. Regardless of parental opposition, the abortion could be performed 48 hours later.

Supporters of the measure believe that parents need to be informed and involved in crucial decisions in their daughter's lives.

However, opponents like the ACLU argue that government should not and cannot mandate good family communications.
"Of course parents want to be involved in their daughters’ lives. Many pregnant teens do confide in a parent. But laws can’t create good family communication—that has to start long before a daughter is pregnant. It’s important to remember that not all teens live in homes where open communication is safe and possible. Many teens fear being forced to have the baby, kicked out of their homes or subjected to violence.

Proposition 4 won’t transform abusive, dysfunctional families into stable, supportive ones. It would create more difficult options for pregnant teenagers at an already difficult time in their life."
They go on to argue that Proposition four is more dangerous than previous parental notification initiatives in two ways.
"It would dramatically expand the liability of doctors who care for pregnant teenagers, authorizing lawsuits against them decades after an abortion is performed."
Furthermore they argue:
"A deceptive and dangerous alternative was written into Prop 4 for pregnant teens who can’t safely notify their parents or obtain court orders. Authors of the initiative assert that teens in an abusive home could request that notification be sent to another relative over 21 who fits the initiative’s criteria. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. To invoke the alternative, a teen would have to write a history of charges against her parents and provide that document to her doctor. The doctor must then send the teen’s written statement to law enforcement and send the state-scripted abortion notice to a designated substitute relative, together with a letter saying that the parents have been reported to a law enforcement agency. This provides no real protection for the pregnant teen. If law enforcement pursues the report, or the relative calls the parents, the abusive parents will find out about the teenager’s charges, her pregnancy and her abortion."
I agree with the ACLU's position on this proposition. I understand both points that are raised by this proposition. First, I think we need to work together to limit pregnancies in teens. Second, I agree that teens need to include their parents in their decisions. That's why they are minors.

Unfortunately, the real world often does not work out nearly as idyllic as we would like it to be. There are many teens that come from broken and abusive homes and this puts a tremendous burden and creates a tremendous barrier to make the right types of decisions for their lives.

Far from helping these teens, they put them at risk both physically and emotionally. What I would like to see rather than this type of legislation which is a band-aid at best for the types of problems raised by both opponents and supporters of the measure, is legislation that would create real resources to help teens even before they become pregnant. Real resources to help families come together, real resources to enable parents to become more involved in their children's lives, so that we do not get the point of the abortion choice. That is the legislation I will support. This I see as a draconian measure that attempts to force communication where obviously it has long since in many case broken down.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting