Safety first

Katharyn McLearan is director of public affairs, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Sacramento region

Proposition 73 puts the health of California teenagers at risk. On the November 8 special-election ballot, voters will decide on Proposition 73, the so-called Parental Notification Initiative, which would require a 48-hour waiting period before a teenager could seek an abortion. A growing coalition of medical experts, teachers, nurses, parents and counselors all oppose this initiative because it will put teenagers in harm’s way.

Parents rightfully want to be involved in their teenagers’ lives, and all parents want what is best for their children, but government cannot impose good family communication. And it can’t force an open dialog between a parent and a teen. No law can do that.

The best way to protect our daughters is to make sure that family communication begins long before a teen faces an unplanned pregnancy, talking to our sons and daughters about responsible, appropriate sexual behavior from the time they are young and fostering an atmosphere that assures them that they can come to us.

But even teenagers who have good relationships with their parents might be afraid to talk to them about something as sensitive as pregnancy. Even in the most loving homes, a pregnant teen may fear her parents’ disappointment or disapproval.

And, sadly, some teens live in troubled homes. A teen’s family might be having serious problems, or her parents might be abusive, or a relative may even have caused the pregnancy. In the worst cases, a teenage girl may fear for her life if she is forced to disclose her pregnancy to her parents.

Proposition 73 puts vulnerable teenagers—those who need the most protection—in harm’s way, or it forces them to go to court. Proponents of the measure hold up this “judicial bypass” process, where a judge may waive the law requiring parental notification, as a feasible alternative for pregnant teens who cannot tell their parents.

As parents, we all would want to know when our daughters were facing a decision like this, so we could be helpful and supportive. But, in the end, the safety of our daughters, and all teenage girls in California, should be more important than our desire to be informed.