Remember all that talk last spring about the governor calling a special election? Well, it’s coming up on Nov. 8 and I’d bet a parking spot on DP most of you haven’t given much thought to it.
It hasn’t hit the airwaves and most people don’t know about it yet, but Proposition 73 is one of the most dangerous to hit California in a while. Prop. 73 would ban abortions on any woman under 18 until 48 hours after her parents are notified. The only exceptions are in a medical emergency or if she can get a court waiver. Prop. 73 backs scared young women into a corner, forcing them to choose between telling their parents, trying to figure out California’s legal system or finding other alternatives that don’t involve a doctor’s office. It undermines women’s right to choose, and not just teenagers’, but all women in California. How? Prop. 73 would change the language of the California constitution, defining a fetus as a child. It’s the first step to wiping out the right to end a pregnancy at any stage, for any reason, for any woman.
If you’re anything like me, the mere thought of this kind of initiative passing is horrifying. But it’s out there, and if we don’t get out and vote against it, Prop. 73 could become the law. Of course, parents want their kids to be able to talk with them and to know what’s going on in their lives. But in the real world, not everyone can go to their parents with news as sensitive as pregnancy. Even people who do have close relationships with their parents may be afraid of disappointing them. And it isn’t going to get easier just because a law says it should.
Most girls – over 70 percent – do tell their parents or another responsible adult, such as a grandmother, aunt or older sister if they’re thinking about having an abortion. Prop. 73 takes the possibility of relying on “another responsible adult” out of the picture, sometimes eliminating the only safe, trusted person a girl can go to. We all know those people who don’t live in perfect homes. Their parents are absent because of addiction, divorce or any number of issues. Others live with abuse or are afraid of getting kicked out on the street. And sometimes, teenagers are impregnated by members of their own families.
Don’t worry, Prop. 73 proponents say they’ve built in a provision for families like that. If she can’t tell her parents, she can go to court to request “judicial bypass.” As if a scared, pregnant teenager who can’t go to her parents is going to brave the judicial system. These young women need help and support from caring professionals, not legal hoops to jump through.
Proponents of Prop. 73 claim that parental notification laws in other states have lowered teen pregnancy rates. Yeah, right. Picture it: prom night, backseat of Dad’s Taurus, a little buzzed from a bottle of Boon’s Farm – “No honey, we can’t. If I get pregnant, I’ll have to tell my mother.” Get real. The proven ways to prevent teen pregnancy are sex education, access to birth control and parents who talk to their kids about sex – not some law that, I promise you, is the last thing on a teenager’s mind.
What is true is that in other states where parental notification laws have passed, some teens started turning to illegal and self-induced abortions. As much as parents want to know what’s going on, that is the last thing they’d want to subject their daughter to. Prop. 73 robs our younger sisters and friends of a safe place to go if they need confidential medical care and counseling.
And down the road, if it passes, women of all ages could lose the right to safe, professional care. For your younger sisters and friends who can’t vote yet, and in memory of the women who suffered when abortion was illegal, please vote “No” on Prop. 73 on Nov. 8.
Courtney Weaver is a senior political science and history major.