Prop 4 – Brought to You by Anti-Choice Advocates Who Can’t Take “No” For an Answer

By Julianne Hing Oct 29, 2008

When I cast my ballot on November 4, it will be the first time I plan on bringing a camera with me to document my visit to the polls. But while we’ll all be excited making our picks for president at the top of the ticket, we can’t forget the bottom of the ballot, where down-ticket races and ballot initiatives will impact our lives closer to home. Californians in particular will be voting on several youth-focused propositions which, if passed, carry serious implications for young people of color. Prop 4 is one of those initiatives that we can’t afford to overlook. The law seeks to change the California state constitution by mandating that a minor notify her parents 48 hours before being able to obtain an abortion. “I would not want to have someone in the school take my daughter to a clinic to get an abortion without telling me or my wife,” Gov. Schwarzenegger said when he endorsed the initiative. “I think one or the other should know. If my daughter decides she doesn’t want to let me know but she feels more comfortable with my wife, that’s perfectly fine with me…But someone, one of us both, should know, and I believe in that 100 percent.” The bill sounds harmless when Arnie puts it that way. But it’s not. Thing is, we’ve seen versions of Prop 4 before. In 2005, Californians voted down Prop 85, and in 2006, we did it again with Prop 73. The Prop 4 of 2008, like its earlier iterations, bills itself as a “family involvement” initiative but at its core is an assault on women’s rights to safe, timely reproductive health care. The hope is that forcing minors to notify their parents will help them avoid abortion altogether because parents will convince their children to bring their fetus to term to raise or give up for adoption. What voters understood then, and need to make clear now, is that Prop 4 will not accomplish what it says it will. Prop 4 will not make teens safer. It will not bring down abortion rates, nor will it stop a minor from seeking back-alley alternatives when her legal options run out. The underlying rhetoric of Prop 4 is based on archaic assumptions about families and cultures and young people. In the idyllic world that Prop 4 supporters, Gov. Schwarzenegger included, seem to live in, it’s no problem at all for daughters to discuss their sexual activity with their parents. It’s no problem at all, too, to mention that they’re pregnant. In this regressive narrative, our daughters are but passive wisps of girls, at risk of being taken advantage of by would-be predators (a.k.a. their partners) and incapable of making their own informed decisions regarding their sexual health. One thing comes to mind immediately. These people have never met my mother, a wonderfully supportive but also very traditional parent for whom premarital sex is both the ultimate sin and a no-go topic for conversation. If I needed an abortion today, I would be mighty hesitant to let my folks know. And you know what? I’m 23. Prop 4 pushers don’t know that teens will search for other options — jumping state lines or crossing the border — to find abortion providers when their state erects these kinds of obstacles to timely care. They don’t know, or won’t accept, that in states with parental notification laws, the rates of first trimester abortions go down, not because the laws are effective but often because minors wait until they age out of the state’s hold on their reproductive rights, and wait until their second trimester to go for an abortion. Second trimester abortions are both costlier and more dangerous for women. Prop 4 advocates don’t get what Christine Chavez, an outreach coordinator with Planned Parenthood’s political action committee told me. Prop 4 will adversely affect minors, but have particularly dire consequences for young women of color and immigrant women. "In the Latino community, we already face so many barriers to quality medical care. We need more health care, more education, but this will just limit our access even more," Chavez cautioned. "Young women from immigrant families will face additional hurdles. Prop 4 creates an impossible situation for our daughters.” Most insulting of all, Prop 4 pushers don’t know the realities of life in immigrant families, in families of color. People of color and immigrants are, across the board, uninsured at higher rates than white families. Immigrant families and families of color already have less access to affordable medical care, but Prop 4 would push resources further and further away. The initiative hopes to, by sheer brute force, open up lines of communication in families, but if enacted, it will only close the door to affordable, safe health care for the women who need it most. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric pro-Prop 4’ers couch their arguments in.