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Battle brews over abortion

Signatures being gathered for ballot initiative unveiled this month

Posted: December 28, 2009 10:17 p.m.
Updated: December 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

Local pro-life and pro-choice groups are at odds over proposed state ballot initiatives that would require physicians to notify a teenager's parents before they can perform an abortion.

Supporters of the law say it would help parents and teens make better decisions about abortion. Opponents say it would undermine women's safety and constitutional right to privacy, and could even be dangerous for girls in abusive homes.

The four-measure package would change the state constitution by prohibiting girls under 18 to get an abortion until 48 hours after their parents have been notified by a physician.

Similar ballot measures requiring health officials to notify parents if a minor was seeking an abortion were defeated in 2008, 2006 and 2005 by narrow margins, according to the UC Berkley's Institute of Governmental Studies.

The latest incarnation was announced earlier this month.

To get the measures on November's ballot, supporters need to gather nearly 700,000 petition signatures before May 10.

The initiatives are being spearheaded by a "John Smith" who did not provide a phone number, according to the Secretary of State.

Some local groups are supporting the signature drive. Among them is the Santa Clarita Valley Pregnancy Center.

Angela Bennett, the director of the Santa Clarita Valley Pregnancy Center, said parental notification could allow a teenager to get greater support from her family and help ease some of the fear they feel about their situation.

"A parent's support can help alleviate a teenager's sense of crisis," Bennett said.

The pregnancy center is a non-profit agency that provides information and support to women with planned and unplanned pregnancies. All services, including ultrasounds to confirm a pregnancy are free, Bennett said.

The city partners with the pregnancy center to offer support for expectant mothers, said Santa Clarita's Recreation Superintendent Toi Chisom. There are also numerous support programs in the city for new mothers, Chisom said.

On average, the pregnancy center gets about 600 new clients each year, Bennett said. A majority of the women they help are 18 to 23, she said.

While they don't offer referrals to abortion clinics, they do provide support for women who have had an abortion, Bennett said, adding it has been her experience that most women regret getting an abortion later in life.

Jan Tucker, the co-president of the National Organization for Women San Fernando Valley and North East Los Angeles chapter, said parental notification undermines a woman's right to privacy and safety.

The prospect of getting an abortion can be frightening for teens, Tucker said. Parental notification can be intimidating and put teens from abusive households in dangerous situations, he said.

"Parental notification both limits a teenager's ability to get a legal abortion and encourages illegal abortions that are unsafe," Tucker said.

The closest Planned Parenthood that provides abortion services is about 20 miles away in Conoga Park. Physicians at Planned Parenthood are licensed by the California Medical Board, said Serena Josel, the Associate Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.

All women are encouraged by staff to involve a parent in all of their pregnancy decision, Josel said. A majority of women who go to the clinic have either talked to a parent or guardian, she said.

"We want to make sure teens that can't talk to their parents for whatever reason can get safe medical care," she said.

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