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New initiative seeks to change abortion rules

Up for vote in November’s special election is Proposition 73, the Parents Right To Know Initiative, which seeks to amend California’s constitution by requiring physicians to notify one of the parents or guardians of a minor who has scheduled an abortion.

Physicians who fail to notify parents will be subject to legal action by the minor’s parents and charged with a misdemeanor that is punishable by a monetary fine., a Web site that supports the initiative, said the “law will change teen behavior, resulting in fewer unwanted teen pregnancies and therefore fewer abortions.” The site also said that 31 states already have parental notification laws in place.

Junior and registered nurse Rebekah Rice said, “I think that the Parents Right To Know Prop is a tricky way of decreasing abortion access to women.” She said that young women who cannot face telling their parents will be forced to go out of state for abortions, “marginaliz[ing] those who may not be able to afford travel or expensive, private or illegal abortion.”

The initiative, which defines abortion as causing the “death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born,” states that an abortion cannot be performed until 48 hours after notification. The legislation does not require parental permission to obtain an abortion.

The legislation also does not require notification in a medical emergency in which the minor’s life is at risk. Parents can also waive notification requirements, including the waiting period, by signing a waiver form and submitting it to the minor’s physician. A juvenile court can waive notification and waiting period requirements if the minor is deemed to be “sufficiently mature and well-informed” to make the decision to have an abortion for herself.

Minors who feel they are being forced to have an abortion can also ask for intervention from the juvenile court. In either case the court will have to hear and issue a ruling on the matter within three business days.

In 1953, a state law was passed that allows minors to receive the same type of “medical care related to the prevention or treatment of pregnancy” without notifying their parents or obtaining consent. In 1987 the legislature changed the law to require the consent of the minor’s parents before an abortion was performed, but in 1997 the California Supreme Court ruled that law was an unconstitutional violation of a minor’s privacy.

If passed, the initiative would also require physicians to notify the California Department of Health Services within one month after an abortion performed on a minor. They will have to provide the DHS with the place and date of the abortion, the minor’s date of birth and information on the circumstances of the abortion.

According to the initiative outline, the potential fiscal impact of the legislation “would probably not exceed several million dollars annually for health and social services programs” if the teen birthrate were to increase in California. DHS would incur first-year costs up to $350,000 and $150,000 annually thereafter. Fiscal impact on the courts is projected to be several million dollars annually due to minors seeking waivers.

Initiative backers include millionaire James Holman who has donated $1.3 million to the legislation and former State Assemblyman Don Sebastiani, who owns Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove wines. Opponents of the initiative include NARAL Pro-Choice, the ACLU and the American Medical Association.