Letter to the Editor: Proposition 73 editorial

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Editor, The Channels:

Thank you for your recent coverage of Proposition 73, the proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require doctors to notify the parents of young women under 18 if they choose to abort an unwanted pregnancy. Educating voters about the potentially dangerous impacts of this proposition on the health and safety of young women is critically important. However, Ms. Martinez’ pro-73 “Election Debate” editorial contains inaccurate statements that demand correction.

According to every national survey conducted in recent years, sexual activity has decreased, not increased, among minors. Young people are waiting longer to have sex, and are more likely to use contraception when they become sexually active. Without Proposition 73, California has had the greatest reduction of teen births and abortions of any state.

There has been no documented reduction in sexual activity or abortion rates among minors in states attributable to parental notification laws. However, there are documented cases of young women dying from illegal or self-induced abortion when parental notification is mandated for minors. While these may be “rare circumstances,” the death of even one young woman who could not tell her parents she is pregnant is unacceptable.

Reproductive health clinics and doctors that provide abortion take complete medical histories on all patients, and they counsel them to thoroughly consider all of their options when facing an unplanned pregnancy. No one is “shuttled” or “rushed” in deciding about or having an abortion. In fact, clinical staff encourage young women to talk to their parents or other supportive adults when they face this difficult situation.

It is not true that most “girls do not turn to parents out of embarrassment or shame” when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. The majority of young women choose to tell a parent without a legal requirement to do so. Those who can’t tell their parents, out of fear of disappointing them or of abuse, will not do so just because the law says they must. They will find other, less safe, ways to deal with their situation.

We all support good parent-child communication, particularly around something as important as an unplanned pregnancy. However, mandating parental notification puts the lives and health of teens in danger. Please help ensure the safety of all young women, and vote “No” on Proposition 73.

–Scott McCann, Ph.D.

Adjunct Faculty
Health Education

Planned Parenthood, Santa Barbara