An Open Response to Tom Elias in re Proposition 4

(Katie Short, October 1, 2008)

In warning his readers about Proposition 4, the parental notification initiative, Tom Elias makes some bold assertions about “case histories” showing girls getting back alley abortions or self-aborting when faced with the prospect of a parent being notified. His claims are pure, unadulterated fiction. There are no case histories, no studies, no support at all for his oh-so-scientific sounding proclamations. The opponents of Prop 4 are unable to point to a single case of a minor being harmed by a parental involvement law. But with “journalists” like Mr. Elias around to fabricate this stuff, why would they need facts or evidence? It’s in the newspaper; it must be true.

If Mr. Elias has any integrity, he will put up or shut up. Show us the “case histories” and the “studies” indicating “the percentage of back-alley abortions goes up” with notification laws, or admit he made it all up. Not even Planned Parenthood, the main opposition to Proposition 4, has made claims as wild as these.

Moving from full lies to half-lies, Mr. Elias states that, under Prop 4, a minor from an abusive home could only get a waiver to tell another adult family member if there was a “formal record” or “formal history” of abuse by a parent. That’s incorrect.

Prop 4 allows the doctor to notify another adult family member in place of a parent whenever a girl states in writing that she has been the victim of abuse by either parent. The doctor then follows the same notification procedure for the adult relative that would have been followed for the parent, and the abortion may take place within days. At the same time, the doctor reports the abusive situation to the proper child welfare authorities, so that the girl can receive the help she needs.

Compare what happens to Mr. Elias’s hypothetical Susie, beaten regularly by her abusive father, with and without Prop 4. Without Prop 4, she gets a secret abortion and returns home to the same abusive situation, living in constant fear that her father will find out anyway. With Prop 4, she can still have the abortion if she chooses, but she is finally put in contact with adults outside her immediate family who will help her out of this dangerous situation.

And suppose Susie wasn’t impregnated by “young Jason,” but, because of the abusive situation at home, had turned to an older man, ready and willing to provide her the “affection” she was lacking at home. Without Prop 4, she gets a secret abortion and returns not only to her abusive home, but to an exploitive relationship, putting her at risk of further pregnancies and abortions, not to mention the variety of sexually transmitted diseases which randy older men are more likely to carry and spread. With Prop 4, there is both someone in her family and someone trained to deal with sexual exploitation of minors to help her break free.

But suppose, as Mr. Elias says, the older man was her stepfather. Wait: we don’t have to hypothesize. We know exactly how it works without Prop 4 in place. A recent California Supreme Court decision related how a 39-year-old man impregnated his 13-year-old stepdaughter. He took her to Planned Parenthood twice and then to San Francisco General for a late-term abortion. No medical provider reported the abuse, and the man continued to molest this young girl for seven more months after the abortion until her mother found out and turned him in. This is the status quo Mr. Elias wants to preserve?

Over 30 states, both red and blue, have parental involvement laws in place that are protecting young girls. California voters should provide the same protection to vulnerable girls in our own state by voting Yes on 4.


ELIAS says:

“Studies of case histories indicate she’s likely to try to abort the baby herself, using a coat hanger or the like, or seek an illicit back-alley provider. . . . The downside is that because of the potential of such involvement, some teenagers will die or be maimed.”
“But where girls are legally required to notify parents, the percentage of back-alley abortions goes up.”

FACT: There are no “studies,” no “case histories,” no facts to support these assertions. The opposition has been completely unable to point to any evidence, whether data, studies, or even individual cases of minors being harmed by notification laws. In the Rebuttal Argument in the ballot pamphlet, supporters of Prop 4 said that “IT HAS NEVER HAPPENED” that a minor has been harmed by a notification law. The opponents sued to have the statement removed as “false or misleading.” All the opponents had to do to get that statement removed was show one case of a minor being harmed. They were unable to do so. They were completely unable to point to any evidence that minors have been harmed by these laws. Frankly, they have practically given up trying. Now, their mantra is that girls “delay” getting counseling and abortions. Not even Planned Parenthood has made assertions as wild as Elias’s about “studies” and “case histories” and “percentages” of illegal abortions.

ELIAS says:

“The concept of parental notification is based on the notion that there will be few teenage abortions if parents know about matters in advance. But that’s not true, it turns out.”

FACT: Supporters of parental notification have never said there would be “few” teenage abortions; they say there will be “fewer.” And that is precisely what happens. A recent study by Michael New published by the Heritage Center for Data Analysis documents the decline in abortion rates in states which enact parental involvement laws. A simple comparison of the teen abortion rates, by state of residence of the minor, in states with and without these laws shows the unmistakable correlation between parental involvement and lower abortion rates.

ELIAS says that, under Prop 4, an alternative family member could be notified only if the parents had a “formal record” or “formal history” of abuse.

FACT: Proposition 4 allows the doctor to notify another adult family member of a minor seeking an abortion if the minor makes a written statement that she has been abused by either parent. The doctor then reports the alleged abuse to the appropriate authorities so that the girl can get the help she needs, rather than be given a secret abortion and sent back to the same abusive situation. Recall that “girls from abusive homes will suffer” was the rallying cry of the opposition in the prior campaign. Proposition 4 specifically addresses that concern, but, of course, the opposition is not satisfied.