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Calif. Could Vote on Minor Abortion Notification

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Calif. Could Vote on Minor Abortion Notification

Politics

Calif. Could Vote on Minor Abortion Notification

Calif. Could Vote on Minor Abortion Notification

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Tamara Keith of member station KPCC in Los Angeles reports on a proposed ballot initiative in California which, if passed by a majority of voters, would amend the state constitution to require parental notification before a minor could get an abortion. The measure, which affects unmarried women 17 years old and younger, may be put before voters as early as November.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

In California, Governor Schwarzenegger may call a special election for this fall for several initiatives that he can't get through the Democratic state Assembly and is threatening to take directly to the voters.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): The people want to have education reform. They want to have budget reform. They want the restrict--redistricting reform. And they want to have pension reform. They want that. They're raving for it. And that's why we are getting all the signatures together, and in the next few days we will hand in all the rest of the signatures for the other initiatives.

CHADWICK: But here's a complication, even for a former number-one movie star: Voters can get distracted by other initiatives that may be politically hotter than the governor's project. And this year in California, the big initiative may be abortion and minors. From member station KPCC, Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH reporting:

Last month, supporters of the Parents' Right to Know Initiative turned in more than a million petition signatures. They only needed 600,000. The signatures are still being verified, but California's secretary of State says it is certain to qualify for the ballot. The initiative would amend the state constitution to require parental notification before a minor has an abortion. Albin Rhomberg is a retired physicist and a spokesman for the initiative. He says the concept of parental involvement has broad appeal.

Mr. ALBIN RHOMBERG (Spokesperson, Parents' Right to Know Initiative): The majority of Californians are pro-choice, but 75 percent of Californian voters support this concept of this initiative. So you can see this is something different, even in a partisan sense. This seems to transcend some of those political considerations and even some of the heated debate over pro-choice, pro-life.

KEITH: Independent polls back up Rhomberg's numbers, both in California and across the nation. In fact, more than two dozen other states already have parental involvement measures on the books. But that doesn't mean that in California the Parents' Right to Know Initiative will pass without a fight. Kathy Kneer is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. She says her organization and its allies could spend upwards of $5 million to get their message out, and she expects the initiative's proponents to do the same.

Ms. KATHY KNEER (President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California): I think it's going to clearly bring out both sides. There's no way either side's just going to sit home and toss a coin and see what's going to happen. I think both sides are going to come fight it with all that they have, and I fully expect it to overshadow everything else because it will be such a polarized debate.

KEITH: And that's not good news for Governor Schwarzenegger, says Dan Schnur, a Republican political consultant.

Mr. DAN SCHNUR (Republican Political Consultant): This ballot measure has the potential to hijack the special election from all the things that the governor wants to be talking about.

KEITH: Schnur says the governor's reforms are important public policy, but they're difficult to explain to average voters.

Mr. SCHNUR: For every voter who cares deeply about redistricting reform or budget caps, there are thousands--if not tens of thousands--who have teen-age daughters. That's why an initiative like one on parental consent has the ability to take public and media attention away from the governor's reform package and focus it in a completely different and unanticipated direction.

KEITH: Schnur says it's unclear whether this initiative would increase voter turnout, or whether those possible votes could help or hurt the governor's initiatives. But he says Schwarzenegger and his advisers have to be thinking about this as they consider whether or not to call the special election. A spokesperson for the governor says Schwarzenegger is focused on his own agenda and has not even taken a position on the Parents' Right to Know Initiative. The governor has until the middle of June to decide whether to call the election. For NPR News, I'm Tamara Keith in Sacramento.

CHADWICK: Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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