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CURRENT ISSUE:  September 18, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 16Oakland, CA

Proposition 85 proponents seek victory on November ballot

Supporters of Proposition 85 --- the parental notification initiative for minors seeking abortions --- are busy with another grassroots campaign after a similar measure was defeated at the polls last year by a slim margin. The proposition, called the Parents Right to Know and Child Protection Act by its sponsors, will appear on the November ballot.

The California Catholic Conference of Bishops in Sacramento has endorsed the initiative that requires notification of the parents or guardians of a minor 48 hours before she obtains an abortion, unless a judge determines that such notification places her in danger.

Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron has sent a letter to all pastors, administrators and staffs in the diocese, urging them “to raise parishioners’ awareness of Prop. 85 and to catechize on the matters which it addresses.”

Supporters see Prop. 85 as a parental rights issue, trumping a minor child’s privacy rights. Currently, California public schools have the authority to arrange confidential medical services, including abortion, for junior high and high school students without their parents’ consent or knowledge.

“It is sensible to require a minor girl faced with a serious decision such as an unexpected pregnancy to go to her parents for their wisdom and counsel,” wrote Bishop Vigneron.

“It is equally sensible to require that parents by made aware of this reality so that, should their daughter go through with a plan to end her pregnancy, they may best care for her physical and emotional well-being thereafter.

“Furthermore, it is entirely appropriate to ensure that a pregnant minor be protected in the unfortunate circumstance in which she is being coerced to have an abortion,” he wrote.

Over 30 states have a parental involvement law (parental notification or parental consent). Michael New, assistant professor at the University of Alabama, in his 2005 study, “Analyzing the Effect of Pro-Life Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion among Minors,” states that a major factor in the 50 percent reduction of abortions among minors from 1985 to 1999 was the “positive impact” of pro-life legislation.

If Prop. 85 passes, it will amend the California constitution to prohibit abortion for an unemancipated minor until 48 hours after a physician notifies the pregnant girl’s parent or legal guardian, except in a medical emergency or with a parental waiver.

The initiative would also permit a minor girl to obtain a court order waiving notice based on clear and convincing evidence of her maturity or best interests. It also requires a minor girl’s consent to an abortion, permitting girls whose consent was coerced to obtain a court order blocking the abortion procedure.

In their statement last month, the California bishops said Prop. 85 is “good public policy” and encouraged Catholics to vote for its passage.

On July 25, the U.S. Senate passed the Child Custody Protection Act making it a federal crime to help girls under age 18 circumvent parental notification laws by crossing state lines for an abortion. A similar bill passed the House in 2005, and President George W. Bush has said he will sign the legislation if the two chambers can agree on wording for a final bill.

Last November, Prop. 73 failed by a modest margin of 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent, unlike the other four reform measures which were soundly trounced by voters.

With no major campaign funding anticipated beyond the over $2 million spent toward the petition drive --- loaned by San Diego Reader Weekly publisher James Holman who spent over $1.1 million getting Prop. 73 on the ballot according to a July 28 article in The Sacramento Bee --- passage of the initiative rests on the success of grassroots efforts.

Opponents led by Planned Parenthood, which spent more than $4.5 million to defeat Prop.73, have promised another aggressive campaign. State Treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democratic candidate for governor running against Schwarzenegger in November, opposes the initiative. Schwarzenegger has taken no public position on Prop. 85, but did support Prop. 73.

“We’re hoping to win with grassroots efforts again since there’s no campaign war chest,” said Carol Hogan of the bishops’ conference.
(Editor’s note: Downloadable educational materials in English and Spanish on Proposition 85 are available on the California Catholic Conference Web site at www.cacatholic.org. The Catholic Coalition in favor of Proposition 85, led by the CCC, the Knights of Columbus and Catholics for the Common Good, also has an informational Web site at www.Catholicsfor85.org)

Paula Doyle is a staff writer for The Tidings, weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Catholic Voice staff contributed to this article.

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops, including Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron, calls Prop. 85 “good public policy.”

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