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Proposition 73 divides voters over abortion


Nov 9, 2005
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SACRAMENTO – Just three years ago, Gov. Gray Davis referred to California as "arguably the most pro-choice" state in the nation.

In the Nov. 8 special election, abortion opponents have their best chance in three decades of changing that designation.

Proposition 73 has sparked a highly charged battle that has evenly divided voters.

The measure requires a physician to notify a parent or guardian 48 hours before performing an abortion on a girl under 18 years old. It exempts girls who obtain a judicial waiver or face a medical emergency.

Proponents say the measure restores a role for parents in a critical decision.

"This is not about abortion. This is about parental rights," said Karen England, director of programs at the Capitol Resource Institute, a family advocacy group.

Yet, in some print ads, supporters tout the initiative as the first "pro-life measure to be voted on in the state of California."

"This is our first opportunity since Roe v. Wade to pass a baby-saving law in California," stated one ad in San Francisco Faith, a magazine for San Francisco Bay Area Catholics owned by James Holman, publisher of the San Diego Reader and chief financial backer of Proposition 73.

Opponents of the initiative agree with the ad in one respect. They believe the fight over Proposition 73 has implications beyond parental notification. They see it as the latest battle in the long-running war over access to abortion.

"California has had a pioneering and progressive tradition of furthering reproductive rights," said Margaret Crosby, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. "Passage of Proposition 73 would be a major blow to the reproductive rights movement nationally."

Crosby contends that a new definition of abortion tucked into Proposition 73 could threaten reproductive rights in California and even jeopardize the state's stem cell research program.

The measure, she said, would define an abortion for the first time in the state's constitution in a way that equates a fetus with a child. Under Proposition 73, an abortion is defined as causing the "death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born."

Supporters of Proposition 73 say that has nothing to do with the thrust of the measure.

"That's nonsense," said Albin Rhomberg, spokesman for Proposition 73. "You have to define your terms in an initiative. This is a very specific and very small restriction on the right of an unemancipated minor to have an abortion."

Abortion and the courts
Since the late 1960s, the California courts and the Legislature have generally expanded access to abortions.

During the 1980s, the courts and the Legislature engaged in a yearly ritual over Medi-Cal funding of abortions for poor women. Each year the Legislature would pass a budget blocking the funding and each year the courts would restore the money.

In 1987, the Legislature passed a law requiring girls younger than 18 to obtain parental consent before getting an abortion. The law, which never took effect, was struck down by the state's high court in 1997.

That decision helped spur Holman, publisher of the San Diego Reader, into political action.

Seven years ago, Holman donated at least $20,000 to defeat state Chief Justice Ronald George and Associate Justice Ming Chin in their elections for another term. In an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune in 1998, Holman said he was angered by the justices' decision to strike down the consent law.

Backers of Proposition 73 also reacted to the decision. This time, instead of requiring minors to get parental permission for an abortion, they decided to write a measure merely requiring notification. They believe this change will help their measure withstand any court challenges, if it is approved by voters.

Holman, who declined a request for an interview, is the chief financial backer of Proposition 73, contributing about $800,000 of the $1.2 million raised this year by the campaign, according to state figures that cover spending up to late September. Most of the money was spent on gathering signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Other large donors include vintner Don Sebastiani and Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.

Supporters of Proposition 73 include the California Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Traditional Values Coalition, the California Pro-Life Council and the Mexican American Political Association.

Opponents include the California Medical Association, the California National Organization for Women, the California Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters of California.

Opponents had raised $1.5 million, according to state records filed in late September. Planned Parenthood of San Diego, which donated $278,313, is one of the largest contributors against the measure.

During the campaign, both sides are using the experience of the 34 other states with parental consent and notification laws to make their arguments.

Proponents say many states that have passed such laws have seen a reduction in pregnancies and abortions among minors.

Opponents cite a 1997 study of the Missouri law showing the yearly abortion rate for minors dropped 20 percent, but the likelihood that a minor would travel out-of-state for an abortion increased by 52 percent.

Abortion rights generally have strong support among California voters, according to the latest Field Poll. But the nonpartisan poll early last month showed voters are split 45 percent-45 percent on Proposition 73.

In 2002, Davis said his signature on seven laws passed by the Legislature to expand abortion rights made California "arguably the most pro-choice state in the nation."

The ACLU's Crosby said Proposition 73's passage "would be a major change in direction for California."

Rhomberg, the spokesman for Proposition 73, said the other side is exaggerating the importance of the parental notification law. Some of the 34 states that have consent or notification laws haven't restricted abortion rights any further in decades.

"If the sky is falling," he said, "it's falling very slowly."

And of course, it dind't fall. The CA voters know better than to endorse enslavement of women, regardless of what rich fundies back the idea.
I am so glad that i live in the uk we at least still have a chance of winning parental notification so we can help our children through the ordeal of termination and also keep our eye on our children after the fact in case of complications.
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