Tuesday, 10 October 2006 01:44

Proposition 85

Prop 85If Proposition 85 on the November ballot sounds familiar- it is. One year after the relatively narrow defeat of an initiative seeking to limit abortions by young girls, a nearly identical measure on this year's ballot is expected to produce another close vote. Proposition 85 is a proposed constitutional amendment requiring doctors to inform parents or guardians before performing abortions on girls younger than 18, unless minors obtain permission from juvenile court judges. It is the new incarnation of Proposition 73, which voters defeated in November by 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent. A Field Poll released in early August suggested that Proposition85 might be in for another tight race: 45 percent of likely voters said they opposed it, while 44 percent voiced their support. "It looks like we're starting where we left off last year," said Mark DiCamillo, Field Poll director.

Mark DiCamillo Field Poll Director"Voter attitudes on this particular initiative have largely been formed, and the public is pretty evenly divided on the issue." If the measure passes, California would become the 16th state with a parental notification law. An additional 19 states require parental consent. Proponents claim that Proposition 85 is moderate and would not upset abortion laws. "Some speculate that the sky will fall if this passes, which is nonsense," said Albin Rhomberg, a spokesman for the Yes on 85 Campaign. He said the bill does nothing to interfere with Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion — or related issues such as access to contraception.

Albin RhombergAbortion foes back the measure but critics point to the similarities between the measure's backers and supporters of more direct attempts to restrict abortion access. Critics say efforts to make the measure less divisive than its predecessor are a way of covering up its supporters' true agenda. The initiative on last year's ballot contained language that defined abortion as a procedure resulting in the death of an unborn child, a definition its opponents said could have been used in the future to restrict abortion further. The legal language of Proposition 85 defines abortion simply as "the use of any means to terminate (a) pregnancy." "The language change makes this less anti-choice on the surface, but it will weaken the state constitution, which is the thing protecting California" if the U.S. Supreme Court restricts abortions in the future, said Margaret Crosby, staff counsel for the ACLU of Northern California. In addition, opponents say, the measure does not provide a sufficient safety net for teenagers who come from violent or sexually abusive households.

Overlapping Names Include"The vast majority of girls do inform their parents. But often when they don't, there's a very good reason," said Steve Smith, manager of the No on 85 Campaign. "You're putting those girls at risk, and they're often at the greatest risk already." Supporters say last year's measure suffered from being on the unpopular special election ballot. "There was this general tidal wave of opposition to the special election, and we were all caught up in it," Rhomberg said. Democratic candidate and state Treasurer Phil Angelides has come out against the measure, calling it "an effort by anti-choice extremists to roll back the clock to a much darker day." Schwarzenegger has not taken a position endorsing Proposition85, but a campaign spokeswoman, Julie Soderlund, said "his position hasn't changed" since his endorsement of the initiative on last year's ballot. "The governor personally supports parental notification," she said.

 Margaret Crosby Steve Smith Albin Rhomberg