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First Proposition, Then Conception 

Take the initiative on the sticky question of parental notification

Wednesday, Nov 2 2005
Among the initiatives on the ballot in California's special election on Nov. 8 is Proposition 73, a constitutional amendment that would require doctors who intend to perform an abortion on an unmarried minor to notify at least one parent in writing 48 hours before the procedure. Proponents argue that the notification rules (parents wouldn't have to give their consent, just be notified) will reduce teenage pregnancy rates and protect minors by ensuring the cooperation of their legal guardian. Opponents of the measure, however, say the opposite will happen: More unsafe operations will occur because adolescents often face a complicated home situation and receive little help in the courts. Moreover, organizations such as Planned Parenthood suggest that a greater emphasis on reducing teen pregnancy is the best way to address California's abortion rate. Nevertheless, 34 other states already require parental involvement in a minor's decision to have an abortion, and Prop. 73's backers have been working diligently for months to drum up the votes required to pass the amendment. Are you an apologist for Prop. 73? Take our quiz and find out!

1) The amendment would change the definition of "abortion" in the California Constitution to causing the "death of an unborn child," which is an emotional phrase abortion foes prefer rather than death of a "fetus" or "embryo." To what extent do you think politics is playing a role in this amendment drive?

A) Politics? In the arena of abortion rights? Pshaw!

B) Let's just say this a very special "special election."

C) None at all. We're only trying to do what's best for our parents, sons, daughters, and lobbyists.

2) The California Supreme Court has already ruled that parental notification laws are unconstitutional on privacy grounds, joining nine other state Supreme Courts that have reached the same decision, but because Proposition 73 is an amendment, it would be immune to legal challenges. What do you think of the political process that's brought the proposition before voters?

A) Circumventing the courts? Undermining checks and balances? That's just democracy, baby.

B) Look, the courts have had their say. Now it's time for the people of California to forget all that and do whatever the hell they want.

C) Who cares whether this is an amendment or a law proposed and passed by the state Legislature? The point is to move abortions out of the doctors' offices and into the streets.

3) Minors have to obtain permission from their parents for a variety of activities; if their daughter is under 18, parents still have to sign off on flu shots and school field trips. Do you think these parents have the same right to know whether their daughter is getting an abortion?

A) Hey, some things are harder to talk about than a bus ride to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

B) Yes. Isn't that why we bought her a cell phone?

C) All I know is, she is never getting my permission for one of those school-sponsored field trips. Do you know how many abortions happen during those things? (Bonus point for admitting that you don't have the statistics handy.)

4) Much of the "Yes on Prop. 73" campaign has been funded by James E. Holman, publisher of the alternative weekly the San Diego Reader (which does not accept explicit sex advertisements) and several Catholic newspapers across the state. By far the leading contributor to the cause, Holman has given more than $1.1 million of the almost $1.8 million reported by Prop. 73 backers so far. Most of that money has gone toward the collection of signatures to qualify the measure for a vote, and Holman's newspapers carried copies of the petition. What do you make of Holman's role?

A) Sounds good to me. After all, hard-core Catholics seem to have all of the complexities regarding modern sexuality figured out.

B) James E. Holman is simply a strong, proud proponent of law and order. Um, except for those arrests outside an abortion clinic in 1990. Whoops -- got a little carried away there.

C) If there's anything history has taught us, it's that the country's best ideas for public policy reform have always come from reclusive, insanely rich, ideologically warped newspaper publishers with a religious bent. How could this be wrong for America?

5) The proposition includes a mechanism known as "judicial bypass," which allows minors to get free legal advice, a confidential juvenile court hearing, and a decision on whether they can proceed with an abortion within three days. Opponents argue, however, that other states' experience with judicial bypass laws suggest that teenagers often feel overwhelmed by the court proceedings and are likely to avoid the process out of fear and intimidation. What do you think?

A) Oh, sure, judges have time for this.

B) Anybody who's been to court, especially when it's a family matter, can agree that there's no course easier to navigate than the American judicial system. Also, I'm Harriet Miers, and I have no idea what I'm talking about.

C) Fear and intimidation in the courts? C'mon, what's there to fear for a 13-year-old girl going before a graying stranger in robes to explain the excruciating family dynamics that led her here?

6) Opponents of Prop. 73 include the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the California Medical Association, which argue that notification rules will not necessarily improve communication between teens and parents, and that the loss of confidentiality will prompt more minors to obtain unsafe abortions. Do you think abortion is an issue that minors should have to discuss with their parents?

A) Are you kidding? We can't even talk about the latest episode of The O.C. without Dad blushing.

B) Yes. And at the dinner table, promptly, with all of her chores done.

C) Absolutely, we should discuss abortion. As long as we don't have to talk to our kids about sex.

7) And finally, do you think Prop. 73 will reduce the number of abortions in California?

A) Performed safely in clinics, yes.

B) Who cares? The point is that we think Planned Parenthood is evil. Haven't you seen our TV ads?

C) Of course. I just wish we could extend this "parental notification" thing to tattoos.

How to score:

Score zero points for every "A" answer, one point for every "B," and two points for every "C."

0-6 points: Let me get this straight -- Holman is an altweekly publisher who doesn't accept sex ads? What's alternative journalism coming to in this country?!?

7-10 points: On the fence, huh? Well, there's certainly no arguing that prohibition has always worked against abortion in the past.

11-14 points: Congratulations! You are a true Prop. 73 apologist. Now if we can just get this tricky overpopulation problem under control ....

About The Author

Matt Palmquist


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