Saving Sarah? Or not.
For the third time in four years, Californians are once again to vote on an abortion referendum. Proposition 4, or The Child and Teen Safety and Stop Predators Act: Sarah’s Law, will require physicians to notify a parent, legal guardian or some other adult family member of a minor seeking an abortion and then wait 48 hours before performing the procedure. This ballot initiative was rejected the first two times it was voted on, and it needs to be rejected again.
But why, ask proponents of Proposition 4, aren’t we hailing this as a step forward in fostering parental involvement in their young daughters’ lives? Any teenager who comes from a loving family would instinctively turn to her parents in such a life-changing event as a pregnancy.
Such openness between children and parents is something to be strongly encouraged, but to mandate by law such communication will benefit no one.
For those lucky enough to have strong family relationships, a law mandating adult notification to obtain an abortion is utterly superfluous. And then, what of the minors who cannot turn to their parents? What of those who come from dysfunctional and abusive families? And what of the girls who are impregnated by their fathers?
There are provisions for courts to waive the notification requirement if it’s demonstrated that the abortion is in the minor’s best interests. The problem is that when a girl is in the position of being pregnant and not feeling like she can turn to her parents, the last thing she needs is to go through additional hurdles to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, especially through a judge who decides for her.
Furthermore, when minors who fail to notify their parents are forbidden from having an abortion, they are necessarily forced into childbirth. Rather than asking if abortion is in a minor’s best interests, we might well ask how childbirth is in a minor’s best interest. Abortion is not something to be taken lightly, but supporters of Proposition 4 seem to have forgotten that neither is childbirth, which involves nine months of pregnancy with its inherent risks, and culminates in parenthood or in giving up the very child that spent so long gestating in the womb. Both of these decisions are difficult enough for a grown woman, but for a girl of 16, they are without a doubt every bit as heavy decisions as abortion, if not more so.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Sarah’s Law is not about strengthening parent-child relationships or about protecting child welfare. It is not about giving teenagers guidance through a difficult decision. It is instead about undermining abortion as an option for a subset of the populace; it is about finding a new angle from which to attack the rights granted by Roe v. Wade.
Consulting one’s parents about life decisions is a sensible thing to do and as such, one to be encouraged. Indeed, I still turn to mine for support and guidance. This should not translate, however, into legal mandates, especially not ones that undermine the right to control one’s own fertility. Therefore, citizens of California, I urge you to vote no on Proposition 4.