- The Washington Times - Friday, November 4, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Voters will decide whether to make it harder for girls to terminate pregnancies without their parents’ knowledge, but recent polls suggest they will reaffirm Californians’ long-standing support for unfettered abortion access.

Proposition 73 on Tuesday’s ballot would require doctors to give a parent or guardian written notice at least 48 hours before performing an abortion on a minor.

Both abortion rights activists and backers of the proposed amendment agree the race is competitive enough that either side could prevail by mobilizing motivated voters.

“This is going to be a close one,” said Steve Smith, campaign manager for the Campaign for Teen Safety, the anti-amendment group spearheaded by Planned Parenthood.

If the proposal passes, California would become the 35th state with an abortion law requiring either parental notification or consent. But given its size and liberal sensibilities, national abortion rights advocates are concerned.

“I hope it’s not a bellwether and I hope it doesn’t pass,” said Dr. Wendy Chavkin, chairwoman of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, which dispatched doctors to debates and public meetings as part of the “No on 73” campaign.

Although adults would not have to give permission for a girl to get an abortion under the proposed law, sponsors hope the notification requirement would reduce California’s teen abortion rate — the nation’s fourth-highest — by getting parents in on the decision.

“The idea is to create a waiting or reflection period so, in principle, there is time for a parent to be involved and do some counseling,” said Albin Rhomberg, a spokesman for Parents’ Right to Know, the group behind Proposition 73.

The notion of parental notification resonates with many voters who favor legalized abortion but do not think it is out of line for the state to help a 13-year-old’s parents learn she is pregnant.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who favors abortion rights, has endorsed Proposition 73, even though he has not actively campaigned for it.

According to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 70 percent of likely voters would not support overturning Roe. v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right to an abortion.

But a new Field Poll released Wednesday found likely voters more evenly divided on Proposition 73, with 49 percent opposing the parental notification requirement and 41 percent supporting it. The margin of error was plus or minus six percentage points.

“This is about parents’ rights,” said Cindy Moles, who directs Concerned Women of America’s activities in three counties including San Diego County. “In California you can’t let your daughter get her ears pierced without parental permission, and yet she can get a not-insignificant surgical procedure with someone else making the decisions.”

The proposal contains several exceptions to the two-day advance notification — a doctor could perform an abortion in a medical emergency and a judge could waive the requirement on a case-by-case basis.

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