Pro-choice activist groups are out in force this week, rallying local voters against a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require underage girls to notify their parents before they could legally receive abortions.
Supporters claim that Proposition 4 will protect girls from abuse. On their Web site, the political group, Yes on 4, argues that the law would deter “older men [that] exploit young girls and use secret abortions to cover up their crimes.” If passed, the law would require abortion clinics to notify an underage patient’s parents 48 hours before she would be able to receive either medical treatment or counseling.
Brianna Eardley-Pryor, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara Planned Parenthood, was on campus yesterday at a “No on Propositions 4 and 8” meeting in the Student Resource Building, encouraging student activists to spread the word about the risks associated with the ballot proposition.
She argued that, as it is, approximately 70 percent of underage girls seeking abortions already inform their parents of their decision. The law, she said, would place undue pressure on the 30 percent that cannot do so and force them to turn to unsafe solutions to their conditions
“We are concerned about those who, for whatever reason, won’t tell their parents,” Pryor said. “We worry that there is the potential for them to resort to something desperate or dangerous.”
According to their Web site, however, Yes on 4 claims that in addition to deterring male predators, the proposition would also ensure that the pregnant girl has the parental support needed to deal with a teen pregnancy.
“Medical professionals know that a young person is safer when a parent or family member is informed of her medical situation,” the Web site read. “Someone who knows the girl and cares about her future can help her understand all her options, obtain competent care and work through the problems that led her into the situation to begin with.”
In the 30 other states where parental notification laws had been implemented, Pryor said, clinics had reported an increase in second trimester abortions – a trend that she said suggests girls put off seeking care if they are required to inform their families. She also said that these states saw increased numbers of girls crossing borders to get abortions where it was legal to do so without parental consent.
This November will be the third attempt by anti-abortion groups to get a parental notification law passed by voters. Pryor said exceptions that have been added to the bill to alleviate concerns about possible parental abuse are deceptive and counterproductive.
“This time around, [writers of the bill] have included an alternative family notification that allows girls to notify an alternative adult, such as a stepparent or other close family member,” she said. “But the only way to notify an alternative adult is by signing an allegation that accuses the parents of being abusive,” she said.
Pryor said the allegation would then be turned over to either the police or Child Services, who would contact the parents, anyway – thus, the parents would not only be arrested, but also prosecuted.
In response to Yes on Prop 4’s argument that the bill would protect children from predators, Pryor said that Planned Parenthood already takes very seriously its commitment to looking out for instances of abuse and counseling its patients to seek help. She said the bill is merely an attempt by a few anti-abortion groups to slowly chip away at a woman’s right to choose.
Olivia Ortiz, a representative of the Feminist Majority Foundation, joined Pryor on campus to publicize their opposition to Proposition 4. She said that the FMF, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women have joined with Planned Parenthood to get their message out across California’s college campuses in time for the election.
“We are putting out an emergency ‘No on Prop 4’ call, which stresses getting out the vote as if life depends on it,” she said. “Here in Santa Barbara, we have polling places around campus and nearby for students to make use of – we have the ability to really make a significant difference by showing up to vote,” she said.
To further this effort, student groups including the FMF will be hosting an Equality Rally this Thursday at Storke Plaza to speak out against both Propositions 4 and 8, the latter of which would amend the state constitution to define marriage as being only between a male and a female. The event will be attended by an array of local and state politicians including Lois Capps, Hannah-Beth Jackson, and Petro Nava, as well as religious leaders from various faiths.