31 October 2008

California Proposition 4

Prop 4 is the Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor's Pregnancy Initiative Constitutional Amendment. I'll start with the two aspects mentioned in the title.

The waiting period, while often suggested by anti-abortion groups, is necessary for the parental notification to be of any use, and as such, not a focus of debate. The parental notification aspect, on the other hand, is mentioned in every ad on the proposition. So, what constitutes parental notification? A written notification delivered in person or two notifications mailed, one first class, the other certified mail return receipt requested. While proponents claim this would protect teenage girls from complications, I can't help but wonder how many of them forgot their childhood and how often there was actually a parent home when the mail was delivered. Yes, in some households there is always at least one parent home. In others, there isn't always a parent at home when the mailman comes, so who gets first access? That's right, it's the teenager! Hey, here's the first class letter about my abortion, and here's some matches! Oh, and here's the card saying there's a letter to pick up at the post office. More matches! Do you see what I'm getting at?

Prop 4 also includes some exceptions - a medical emergency, a signed waiver by a parent or guardian, notice to a different family member combined with an abuse report, and a waiver granted by the court. There really isn't much to discuss for the first two exceptions, but the second two more than make up for the first.

A scared teenage girl who can't tell her parents that she's pregnant is not going to want to bare all to a judge, much less know that option exists. The one redeeming aspect of a judicial waiver is the free help from the courts. But the whole thing is moot anyway since how on earth is she going to get to the court on a school day? And with all the safeguards schools use to ensure that parents know about absent students, such as calling parents' cell phones and offices, it is likely that her parents will find out that she wasn't in school. And then what?

Rape is one of the most under reported crimes (an estimated 40% of victims file a police report) for a variety of reasons, such as fear of the rapist, humiliation, worry about being believed, and disbelief of family and friends. In cases where the rapist is a family member, even fewer reports are made. So why would an abused teenage girl who hasn't told anyone suddenly be able to tell a complete stranger, knowing that a formal abuse complaint will be made against the offender? She already has a myriad of reasons for not telling, and they didn't just disappear. Mom still won't believe that her beloved second husband can do any wrong. Dad will beat her worse than last time when he finds out. It'll be her fault for breaking up the family.

In such abuse cases, I can't see this amendment doing anything but worsening the situation as girls find alternate means of abortion. Similarly, I can't see girls going through the court system, much less doing so successfully. Mailed notifications can easily be intercepted. While drafted with noble intent by its writers, this amendment is fundamentally flawed and based on a disconnect from reality. I am voting no.

Some of my resources:


dreamerj25 said...

Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. And that's one of the stupidest, however largest-impacting propositions I've ever heard of. Yes, Prop 8 impacts lots of people, but this is about the health and the birth of people / their bodies. There's nothing bigger than that. Poor California, such a disappointment. :/

dreamerj25 said...

Hmm, the more I thought about this one, the more it went from annoying --> irritating --> angering me. >(