California Voters Weigh Abortion Notification Measure
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Here in California, voters are facing a special election next Tuesday called by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. There are, however, several measures on the ballot that are not part of the governor's agenda. One deals with abortion. Proposition 73 would require doctors to notify the parents of a minor seeking to end her pregnancy. As NPR's Ina Jaffe reports, it may not have been the governor's idea, but Republicans think it can help the governor's cause.
INA JAFFE reporting:
Proposition 73 is a modest proposal according to its backers. It doesn't say parents must give permission for their teen-age daughter to have an abortion. It just says the medical provider has to tell them about it first. It's perfectly in keeping with other laws that regulate the behavior of minors, says Karen Hanretty, a spokeswoman for the California Republican Party.
Ms. KAREN HANRETTY (Spokeswoman, California Republican Party): Girls in the state of California can't go and get a tattoo if they're under the age of 18. They can't get body piercings without their parents' permission if they're under the age of 18. And in fact, if you're 14 years or younger, you can't even go to a tanning bed without your parents' permission.
JAFFE: But pregnancy is a far more serious situation, says Dawn Wilcox, spokeswoman for the campaign opposing Prop 73. In some families, she says, parental notification will not open the channels of parent-daughter communication.
Ms. DAWN WILCOX (Spokeswoman, Campaign Opposing Prop 73): Where abuse is occurring, where the minor might be impregnated by a family member or they could be threatened to be kicked out of the house, any number of things could occur.
JAFFE: In those circumstances, Prop 73 would allow a young woman to seek a judge's permission to have an abortion without notifying a parent. More than 30 states have laws restricting minors' access to abortion in some fashion, but Dawn Wilcox says there's a provision Prop 73 that's especially troubling to supporters of abortion rights.
Ms. WILCOX: It would define abortion as pertaining to a child conceived, but not yet born. And our concern is that by putting that language into the California Constitution that we could have impact down the line on all women's rights and even affect things like stem cell research. If we put that language into our Constitution, what impact could it have further down the road?
JAFFE: According to the latest statewide poll, likely voters are closely divided on this measure, so the Republican Party is borrowing a leaf from President Bush's playbook. They've hired Gary Marx, a consultant who did outreach to conservative evangelical churches for the Bush campaign, to do something similar here. Marx did not want to be interviewed, according to state Republican Party spokeswoman Karen Hanretty. She said the party hopes that motivating voters who are passionately opposed to abortion will have benefits beyond that one initiative.
Ms. HANRETTY: If you're a voter who is driven and inspired, chances are you're going to be a Republican voter. And if you're a Republican voter, you're probably going to vote in favor of the governor's reform initiatives.
JAFFE: The ones Schwarzenegger's been actively campaigning for concern less hot-button issues like budget control and the drawing of legislative districts. And with his moderate views on abortion, gay rights and other social issues, Schwarzenegger has not previously courted conservative evangelicals the way President Bush has done, says Republican political analyst Dan Schnur.
Mr. DAN SCHNUR (Republican Political Analyst): No question, Schwarzenegger's greatest appeal comes from the middle of the political spectrum. So in order to reach out to very liberal or very conservative voters, there are probably other surrogates better positioned to do that than he.
JAFFE: And with just a few days left till the special election, there's no time for the governor to change voters' hearts and minds, just time to make sure the ones that already agree with him get out and vote. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Los Angeles.
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.
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