Abortion Measure is Called both a Fix and a Danger to Girls · 01 November 2005

By John Scheibe--VenturaCountyStar.com--10/27/05

For Katie Short, a Nov. 8 ballot measure would remedy a "bizarre" situation in California wherein parents need to be notified if their underage daughter gets a flu shot or tooth pulled, but not if she has an abortion.

"This is wrong," Short, an Ojai attorney who co-wrote Proposition 73, told a crowd during a debate on the measure Wednesday at Ventura College.

The initiative would require that at least one parent be notified before an abortion could be performed on a girl younger than 18. The debate was sponsored by Students for Academic Freedom, a national coalition of independent campus groups.

Short said Proposition 73 would serve as a wake-up call to some parents that not all is well in their daughters' lives.

"Parents have a stake in the future of their children, which a stranger in an abortion clinic does not," she said.

Christine Lyon, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, agreed Proposition 73 sounds like a good idea, at least on the surface.

"What good parent doesn't want to know what their children are up to?" asked Lyon, a mother of two.

But rather than protect an underage pregnant girl, Lyon said, Proposition 73 would actually create a more dangerous environment for her. She said many girls would be forced to go out of state for an abortion rather than notify their parents, especially if they come from an abusive home where their fathers have molested them.

"We consider this to be an extremely dangerous initiative," she said, adding that her child's safety is more important to her than needing to know everything she is up to.

Short countered Lyon's assertion, saying sexual predators can now cover their crime by having underage girls they've impregnated have a secret abortion without their parents' knowledge. Parents kept in the dark think everything is great in their daughter's life, Short said.

Proposition 73 allows a girl to get a judicial waiver from parental notification in those situations where she's been molested, including by her father or stepfather, she said.

Under the measure, a girl could also argue before a judge that she's sufficiently mature to decide for herself whether she should get an abortion. If the judge agrees, she would not have to notify her parents.

But Lyon said being young and pregnant is daunting enough without having to navigate through the judicial system.

Moreover, she said, Planned Parenthood already asks pregnant teens who come in for an abortion whether they've spoken with their parents.

"Most do tell their parents," Lyon said, adding that those who don't usually have a very good reason. In many cases, it's because they come from an abusive home, she said.

Teen pregnancy and abortion rates have fallen significantly in California without a law requiring parental notification, Lyon said, adding, "We don't need Proposition 73."

She quoted figures from the University of California, San Francisco, that show the state's teen pregnancy rate dropped 41 percent during the past decade.

She credited the decline to contraceptives and education programs that teach responsible behavior to teens.

Short questioned the numbers, saying there are no hard and fast statistics, especially about abortions.

Erika Hurtado, 19, a Ventura College student from Santa Paula, said she could see merits on both sides of the debate.

On the one hand, she said, it's important that parents know what their children are up to. But it's also important that a young woman have a right to decide her future, especially when it comes to whether she will have a child.

Maura Sullivan, 18, a Ventura College freshman from Ventura, said the debate just reaffirmed her suspicions that Proposition 73 would create a more dangerous environment for pregnant teens.

"It's not going to work as the supporters say it will," she said.