Vote No on Proposition 4

Dangerous initiatives will be lurking on the November ballot in California. For the third time in four years, opponents of legal abortion are attempting to restrict teenagers’ access to abortion.

Proposition 4 is similar to two ballot measures that voters wisely struck down in recent years—Prop 85 in November 2006 and Prop 73 in November 2005. Like them, Prop 4 would amend the state constitution to require parents to be notified or for the teenager to obtain approval from a judge—both of which could dangerously delay pregnant teenagers’ ability to receive counseling and medical care.

Mandatory parental notification laws like Prop 4 put teenagers in real danger. They create barriers to pregnant teenagers’ ability to access critical medical care. A scared, pregnant teen who can’t go to her parents can feel trapped and desperate. She might choose to have an unsafe, illegal abortion. She might even contemplate suicide. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics, California Nurses Association, California Teachers Association, California Medical Association, and California Association of School Counselors all oppose Prop 4.

It’s time to show once and for all that Californians want to protect the safety of our teenagers.

Government Can’t Mandate Good Family Communication

Of course parents want to be involved in their daughters’ lives. Many pregnant teens do confide in a parent. But laws can’t create good family communication—that has to start long before a daughter is pregnant. It’s important to remember that not all teens live in homes where open communication is safe and possible. Many teens fear being forced to have the baby, kicked out of their homes or subjected to violence.

Proposition 4 won’t transform abusive, dysfunctional families into stable, supportive ones. It would create more difficult options for pregnant teenagers at an already difficult time in their life.


How Prop 4 is More Dangerous


Prop 4 is even more dangerous than previous parental notification initiatives in two ways. It would dramatically expand the liability of doctors who care for pregnant teenagers, authorizing lawsuits against them decades after an abortion is performed. This is an outright attempt to harass and threaten doctors who provide abortions.

A deceptive and dangerous alternative was written into Prop 4 for pregnant teens who can’t safely notify their parents or obtain court orders. Authors of the initiative assert that teens in an abusive home could request that notification be sent to another relative over 21 who fits the initiative’s criteria. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. To invoke the alternative, a teen would have to write a history of charges against her parents and provide that document to her doctor. The doctor must then send the teen’s written statement to law enforcement and send the state-scripted abortion notice to a designated substitute relative, together with a letter saying that the parents have been reported to a law enforcement agency. This provides no real protection for the pregnant teen. If law enforcement pursues the report, or the relative calls the parents, the abusive parents will find out about the teenager’s charges, her pregnancy and her abortion.


The Harmful Impact on Teens


Prop 4’s backers—who oppose legal abortion—simply want to create permanent barriers to counseling and care for pregnant teenagers. Even the most resourceful teenagers would have difficulty navigating through the court process. Sending a scared pregnant teenager to court to discuss the most intimate details of her life with a judge is a stressful, humiliating process that delays teenagers’ access to abortion. (The proportion of second trimester abortions for minors rises in states with parental involvement laws.) And in some states, the court system does not work. Clerks give teenagers inaccurate information or moralist lectures; judges refuse to hear abortion cases or deny petitions for arbitrary or ideological reasons.

Parental involvement laws, such as what Prop 4 seeks to do, put our teenagers at risk.The ACLU spent 10 years examining other states’ experience with parental involvement laws in our lawsuit challenging California’s parental consent statute. The California Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that this evidence “overwhelmingly” showed that these laws are dangerous and unconstitutional. Prop 4 attempts to overturn that ruling and engrave those dangers into the California Constitution.


If Proposition 4 is written into the Constitution, we could only modify it only by yet another initiative.


How Can I Help Defeat Prop 4 and Keep Teens Safe?


There are many ways to get involved in this volunteer-driven campaign to protect teen safety and defeat Proposition 4.

    1. Join our Email Network and stay updated on how to get involved.
    2. Volunteer! To learn how you can volunteer, send us an e-mail or call 619.232.2121. Check the No on 4 website for up-to-date volunteer opportunities in your area.
    3. Donate to the Campaign
      Anything you can give is helpful – $5, $20 or $1000! Please send donations to:
      Campaign for Teen Safety
      C/o David Alois
      555 Capitol Mall, Ste 510
      Sacramento, CA 95814
    4. Talk to your friends, family and colleagues about getting involved in the Campaign for Teen Safety and remind them to vote NO ON PROPOSITION 4 in November!


No on Prop 4 Campaign Website

“The Deceptive Dangers of Prop. 4” by Margaret Crosby, Staff Attorney, ACLU Northern CA