Monday, August 19

Abortion law reinforces parental consent


Tuesday, April 9, 1996

State Supreme Court decision on minors takes effect May 5By
Karen Duryea

and Patrick Marantal

Daily Bruin Staff

A sharply divided California Supreme Court upheld a 1987 state
law last Thursday requiring minors to obtain permission from a
parent or a judge before having an abortion.

Previously blocked by lower courts, the parental consent law
will become effective May 5. The matter may still be appealed to
the U.S. Supreme Court.

To members of the UCLA community and the Los Angeles area , the
ruling raised issues not only of women’s and minors’ rights, but
also of the potential consequences for young women affected by the
decision.

"I was pretty stunned when I first heard it. I think it’s just
pushing us a step back in the fight for a woman’s ability to have
an abortion," said Petty Tsay, co-chair for the Womynist
Collective, a feminist UCLA student group. "There are so many
issues where minors don’t have to consult their parents … It’s
almost like saying young women can’t make their own decision."

For minors who want to avoid obtaining parental consent for an
abortion, the option remains to obtain approval from a judge in a
confidential session. According to the court’s ruling, the judge
has the authority to decide whether or not she is "informed and
mature enough" to have an abortion.

"The teen has to get an attorney and go to court, which may
affect the health of the young woman because it could take some
time," said Suellen Craig, executive director of Planned
Parenthood, Los Angeles. "Most adults have a hard time when dealing
with the judicial system, let alone a teenager," Craig added.

Many students and experts also argued that at a young age, fear
of abortion and a lack of knowledge can hinder a minor in asking
for help. Medically, this delay carries more risks because
abortions become more dangerous as the fetus grows older.

"You’re at such a young age and so scared about being pregnant
that you’ll react on your emotions," Tsay claimed, adding that
women may delay the decision so far as to miss the cutoff point for
a legal abortion ­ currently three months into a
pregnancy.

In the decision, Justice Stanley Mosk argued that the law does
not violate the state’s constitution because minors have fewer
rights than adult citizens. Minors are already required to obtain
parental permission for, among other things, tattoos and marriage
licenses.

However, Craig emphasized that minors do not need consent from
parents to carry and deliver a child, in addition to obtaining
testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Though abortion enjoys popular support in California,
anti-abortion activists were quick to claim victory over last
week’s state Supreme Court decision.

Father Gregory Coiro, of the Archdiocese of Ventura and Santa
Barbara, said he supports the decision because of Catholic
doctrine, which deems abortions immoral.

"We are especially opposed to the notion that young girls who
couldn’t even get their ears pierced were making the decision to
have a major surgery, such as abortion," Coiro said.

Others argued that if a minor or adult is responsible enough to
have sex, then they should be aware of the possibility of
pregnancy.

"The reason I’m against abortion is because I think if you’re
mature enough to be active, you should be responsible enough for
the repercussions," said Mariana Keshmeshian, a fourth-year
microbiology student. "If you get pregnant, you should be
responsible for the child."

Yet until the law takes effect, Planned Parenthood expects to
continue offering their services to minors who desire to terminate
their pregnancies. Currently, Craig claimed that the center
encourages teens of any age, through education programs, to consult
their parents before making a decision about abortion.

But Craig believes that this recent ruling will only hinder the
efforts that Planned Parenthood has made to establish interaction
between parents and their children regarding sexuality.

"We encourage communication between teens and parents about
these issues, but these issues cannot be legislated. Laws cannot
make it easier to talk to parents," Craig said.

Regardless of its claims of encouraging open discussion between
parents and children about sex and contraception, including
abortion, some anti-abortion advocates view the organization itself
as detrimental to society.

"Planned Parenthood has its roots in eugenics and racism; from
our perspective, it is not a useful organization," Coiro said.
"What they do is highly immoral."

Thursday’s ruling is not the first attempt to restrict women’s
rights to health care, abortion rights officials said. But this
decision comes as the latest backlash against the gains in
reproductive rights during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

"We’ve been describing the ruling in three deadly words:
deceitful, dangerous and deadly," Craig said. "It’s deceitful
because it’s claimed to be a law in helping teens and their parents
to communicate … it is dangerous and deadly because there are so
many roadblocks to teens. We fear they may get illegal abortions or
travel long ways for abortion which is not good for their
health."

Abortion-rights activists said they would petition for a
rehearing on behalf of the estimated 30,000 unmarried, underage
teenagers who will be impacted by this decision.

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