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Protect Our Daughters: Support Proposition 73 | Valerie
Schmalz | October 30, 2005
Harlon Reeves didnt learn his 13-year-old daughter had received two
coerced abortionsor that she had been repeatedly raped by her mothers
live-in boyfrienduntil Texas child protective services notified him.
This is a situation that is not confined to Texas - as a
series of call-in radio interviews in California this fall show, parents whose daughters are coerced
into abortions are apalled, saddened and helpless.
In the Reeves family case in Texas, the abortion clinic had contacted the state with
its suspicions after performing the second abortion on the developmentally delayed young girl,
who was brought to the clinic by her molester.
Reeves story spurred passage of Texass parental notification
law in 1999, and the girls rapist was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Reeves daughter is now in her 20s, but Reeves, who has another young
daughter, has lent his name to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by Liberty
Legal Institute in support of a New Hampshire case, Ayotte v. Planned
Parenthood of New England, to be heard by the US Supreme Court November
"Its one of those things where if just one parent would have
been notified, all of this would have been exposed," said Jonathan
Saenz, one of the Liberty Legal attorneys representing Reeves. "You
would think if a little girl, whos 13 years old, comes in to have
an abortion, something is going on. These child predators are taking advantage
of a system that is broken. It is a real assault on parental rights; its
a real assault on young children."
Both pro-abortion and pro-life forces believe the New Hampshire appeal will
have far-reaching consequences on all abortion law. In accepting the case,
the Supreme Court indicated it would rule on the nature of the health exception
and on the existing situation where different Supreme Court decisions have
applied different standards to judge abortion laws.
Although more than 30 states have some form of parental notification or
consent law in effect, there are huge portions of the country where no statute
is in effect. Thus, in most Western states, in Illinois, and along much
of the East Coast, a young girl can obtain an abortionoften with the
complicity of her school counselor or other school officials, during school
hourswithout the knowledge of a parent or guardian, according to Americans
United for Life and its ideological opponent, Planned Parenthood Federation
That may change in California where an independent group of pro-life advocates led by Jim Holman,
publisher of a string of small California Catholic newspapers and of a San Diego alternative newspaper,
placed Proposition 73 on the ballot, which the California bishops endorsed in a September 1 letter.
Now, Holman is trying to raise awareness by linking to the call-in radio interviews of distraught
parents (LINK)on the Yes on Proposition 73 website, even as Planned Parenthood has launched a series
of ads blasting parental notification in the final weeks leading to the November 8th election.
The Parents Right to Know initiative would reduce under-age abortions
by 25 percent, according to an impartial voter information report by the
state fiscal analyst.
Polls show the public supports parental notification and parental consent
laws by large margins. In a national Quinnipiac University poll, conducted
in March 2005, seventy-five percent of 1,534 registered voters supported
parental notification, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
Most support parental notice as long as a judicial bypass is included, as
required by past Supreme Court rulings, California initiative spokesman
Albin Rhomberg said. A judicial bypass means the girl may ask a judge to
allow her to obtain an abortion without telling her parents.
Only five states have not enacted any parental notice or consent law, although
many of those have been found unconstitutional, said Teresa Stanton Collett,
law professor at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Collett, who is the attorney of record for two friend-of-the-court briefs
filed in the New Hampshire Supreme Court case, was the key advisor in preparing
what backers hope will be appeal-proof language for the California parental
The New Hampshire law under challenge contains a provision that allows an
emergency abortion to be performed without parental notice if the girls
life is threatened, but it contains no general health exception. The law
was challenged by three abortion clinics and a physician who performs abortion
because they said the medical emergency exception does not allow them to
skip notification where delay would result in serious risk of injury to
the minor. A federal district court declared the law invalid and enjoined
enforcement, a ruling that was upheld by the appeals court.
The Supreme Courts ruling "will apply to all abortion cases,"
said Collett, who is representing 49 New Hampshire legislators. In addition,
Collett represents the governors of North Dakota and Minnesota whose long-standing
parental notification laws could be invalidated by an adverse ruling.
Likewise, the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation states on its website
that the New Hampshire ruling "could affect virtually every abortion-related
case and statute in the country."
Since Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court justices have used three different
and conflicting standards to decide the constitutionality of abortion statutes
when the statutes are challenged before they go into effect. The first is
the traditional Salerno standard that requires the statute be invalidated
only if the plaintiffs can show it would be unconstitutional in every way
it can be applied. This is very rare, so usually the law will be allowed
to go into effect, and someone has to show injury and then appeal to the
courts for remedy.
Then, in the 1992 ruling on Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern
Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court justices employed different standards
in their plurality opinion, where a majority of justices reached a judgment,
but disagreed on their legal reasoning.
In that case, Justices Sandra Day OConnor, Anthony Kennedy and David
Souter introduced the Casey standard to review abortion legislation,
"what they call an undue burden upon women subject to law,"
Collett said. Under this standard, a law will be ruled unconstitutional
if the plaintiffs can show that it will apply unconstitutionally even if
only for a large fraction of the cases. The justices used that argument
in ruling a spousal notification requirement unconstitutional, but also
upheld Pennsylvanias parental notification law.
Finally, in 2000 a majority of the court in Stenberg v. Carhart invalidated
the Nebraska partial-birth abortion law, using a third standard which lower
federal courts have interpreted to mean that any hypothetical adverse health
consequence invalidates the abortion law.
"The Supreme Court has not given any guidance as to which of these
three standards it will apply to various types of abortion laws and why,"
said Collett. "The New Hampshire case should provide some answer to
A related issue the Supreme Court may decide is who can challenge an abortion
law. The Thomas More Society, a pro-life legal charity, argues in its amicus
curiae filing that the abortion clinics and the abortion doctor have
no standing in the New Hampshire casebecause they do not show they
have ever performed emergency abortions on minors, despite decades of performing
abortions. In addition, the More Society notes statistics from states with
long-standing parental consent and notification statutes, such as North
Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, and Arkansas that show "medical emergency
abortions involving minors are so rare as to be almost non-existent."
When parents can be kept out of the picture, older men have a license to
prey on young girls, said Michaelene Fredenburg, president of San Diego,
California-based Life Perspectives, a pro-life high school outreach program.
Parental notification will give girls "some power" to say no,
said Fredenburg, who herself had an abortion: "Teen-age girls are extremely
In a study of more than 46,000 pregnancies by school-age girls in California
published in the British medical journal The Lancet in 1995, researchers
found 71 percent or 33,000 were fathered by adult post-high-school men whose
mean age was 22.6 years, an average of five years older than the mother.
Young girls tend not to realize abortion is a serious medical procedure
that requires post-operative care and observation, Collett added.
"Many minors may ignore or deny the seriousness of post-abortion symptoms
or may lack the financial resources to respond to those symptoms,"
Collett told a US House of Representatives committee during hearings on
the Child Custody Protection Act. The act is stalled in the Senate Judiciary
Committee, where it was referred in January after passing the House of Representatives
for the third time, according to the National Right to Life Committee. It
would bar an unrelated adult from taking a minor across state lines to evade
state parental notice or consent laws.
Some of the most serious abortion complications are delayed complications,
yet, only about one-third of all patients actually keep their appointments
for post-operative checkups, Collett said.
"Absent parental notification, hemorrhaging may be mistaken for a heavy
period and severe depression as typical teenage angst," Collett said.
In California, backers of Proposition 73 are hoping Diana Lopezs story
will help convince voters. Ms. Lopezs 13-year-old daughter was picked
up from school during school hours by her boyfriends mother for an
abortion. When Ms. Lopez learned of this and raced to the clinic, the clinic
personnel barred her from seeing her daughter.
"What? Shes only 13 and Im her mother! I want to be there
with her!" Lopez reportedly told the clinic employees.
A weak statute
The California initiative is exceptionally weakit is a constitutional
amendment without criminal penalties, which NARAL Pro-Choice California
says on its website would make legal challenges "not an option."
Rather than impose criminal penalties, Proposition 73 would empower parents
to sue abortionists in civil court and require abortion clinics to report
abortions for minors in statistical form, without the girls identities.
Because the state would be required to comply with its own law, it would
also eliminate under-age Medi-Cal abortions, which comprise about a third
of minor abortions, according to Proposition 73 spokesman Rhomberg. The
number is high because the state imposes no income, age, or residency requirement
to qualify for state-funded abortions, Rhomberg said.
A June 22, 2005, Field Poll found 48 percent of likely California voters
in favor and 43 percent opposed, but so far Proposition 73 has received
very little publicity.
The California initiative is "very unlikely" to be affected by
the Supreme Courts ruling on disputes over the New Hampshire case
because it contains a medical emergency exception in full compliance with
all of the existing US Supreme Court decisions, Rhomberg said.
As for those who oppose the initiative, pro-abortion arguments against parental
notification center around studies that allegedly show most kids already
talk to their parents if they are going to get an abortion, and pro-abortion
groups say if the kids dont talk to their parents, it is not the place
of the law to force families to communicate. They also claim that even with
a judicial bypass, minors could be abused by their parents or put in danger
by parental notification and thus some would resort to "back alley"
The most cited study by pro-abortion advocates is one by the Planned Parenthood
Federation think tank, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, and Collett said that
its findings support those who advocate parental notification. The study
found 45 percent of minors notify parents, although 61 percent of parents
know of the decision to abort. The study found that "the number one
reason that teens do not tell their parents is because they are afraid their
parents will be disappointedhardly a reason for family dysfunction,"
"The second reason is they are afraid their parents are going to require
them to stop seeing their sexual partners," Collett noted.
The most important reason to support parental notification is that it works,
Collett said. "North Dakota and Minnesota currently have the nations
first and fourth lowest pregnancy rate among minors, respectively,"
according to the North Dakota and Minnesota brief. "In recent decades,
Minnesota has reduced the rate of pregnancies among girls aged 15 to 17
by nearly 50 percent. This decline is due in part to the states parental
notice law, which is similar to the New Hampshire statute."
The track record indicates that for those concerned about teen pregnancy,
parental notification can be part of the solution. But even without those
numbers, it also keeps parents involved in the most important and consequential
decision a girl may faceliterally one that balances life and death.
(This article originally appeared in the October 2005 issue of Catholic
Yes On Proposition
"They say, we say" chart from the California Catholic Conference
Catholic Conference page dedicated to "Promoting Parental Responsibility/Vote
Yes For Proposition 73"
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight.
She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print
and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University
of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service
at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San
Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.
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