Today's question: What has been the experience of states that have parental notification laws? How dangerous are abortions for minors? Previously, Short and Gerace discussed whether parents should be notified before minors receive an abortion.
The danger Planned Parenthood can't find Point: Katie Short
You said on Wednesday that California's teen pregnancy rate has dropped dramatically. But California is one of the few states that does not collect data on abortions, and without data on abortions, there is no way to know what the teen pregnancy rate is. So that statement is without any factual support.
What we do know is that parental involvement laws reduce teen pregnancy rates. While there are many studies on this topic, some of which can be found on our website, yeson4.net, the most striking proof is found by looking at which states have the highest and lowest teen abortion rates. Obviously, there are going to be other factors at work, but of the 16 states without true parental involvement laws, 12 of them are among the 13 states with the highest teen abortion rates (by state of residence of the minor). All of the 13 states with the lowest teen abortion rates in the country have parental involvement laws. In the face of this data, which comes from Planned Parenthood's own research arm, the correlation between parental involvement laws and lower teen abortion rates is indisputable.
Lower abortion rates mean lower pregnancy rates, because we know from these states that teen birth rates do not go up when parental involvement laws are enacted. Lower abortion rates also mean fewer young girls face the abortion-related risks they are particularly prone to. Because of their smaller uteri, teens are more prone to lacerations and uterine perforation. The cervix of a teen is stiffer and more liable to damage that can lead to pre-term births in future pregnancies.
Then there are the particular risks of abortions on minors without the involvement of an adult family member. In everything from providing an accurate medical history to ensuring that post-operative complications are dealt with promptly, a young girl who is hiding her abortion from her family is at substantially greater risk of harm.
Teens who abort are also at greater risk than adult women emotionally. They are more likely to engage in substance abuse, to have difficulty with relationships and to attempt suicide. Imagine those risks being dealt with by a young girl on her own without the support of her family -- simply because the family doesn't know.
Planned Parenthood likes to say that parental notification laws "sound" good, but "in the real world" the laws put teens in danger. Given that more than 30 states have these laws (most of which require parental consent, not just notification, as Proposition 4 does), one would think that Planned Parenthood could come up with cases or data about minors being harmed by these laws.
But you can't. In the California voter guide, we made a very clear, unequivocal assertion: No minor has been harmed by a notification law. Planned Parenthood brought a lawsuit challenging that statement as "false and misleading" and asked a court to strike it. If Planned Parenthood had come up with a single case of minor being harmed -- whether by illegal abortion, parental abuse, attempted suicide or whatever -- the court would have removed that statement. But the statement is still there because Planned Parenthood was unable to come up with any admissible evidence of any minor or minors being harmed. None.
Without any evidence of real harm, you now talk about teens "delaying care." But the studies you cite don't back you up. The most recent study Planned Parenthood cites, from Texas, showed that, among the sliver of girls who conceived when they were about 17 years and 9 months old, some tended to wait a week or two more until their 18th birthday to avoid the law. However, there was no delay found among the rest of the age groups studied. So this study actually disproves your "delay" argument.
Another favorite "delay" study, upon closer inspection, reveals that the average time difference was three days. If abortion providers are upset about a "delay" of three days in young girls obtaining abortions, we should be more concerned about girls being rushed into making this decision.
To sum up, parental notification laws like Proposition 4 have a proven track record of protecting teens and lowering teen pregnancy rates without any danger or harm to girls.
Katie Short, coauthor of Proposition 4, is the legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation.
Forced notification is no way to protect teens Counterpoint: Miriam Gerace
Katie, in your avalanche of misleading statistics, you seem to have overlooked something basic: Lower teen pregnancy rates mean lower abortion rates. It's that simple, and no barrage of numbers you recite can change that fact.
But even if we try to follow your flawed logic, it's clear to see that California's teen birth rate fell by 54%, from 46 to 21 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 17 between 1992 and 2005, and now stands below the national average (pdf).That's a dramatic drop. Sensible people know that it can be attributed to medically accurate, comprehensive sex education that includes information on abstinence and birth control methods along with access to family planning services.
It certainly cannot be attributed to the dangerous and ineffective forced notification measures or abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that you would support. (I encourage readers to follow this link to read up on delays in minors' abortions, increased risk and increased travel out of state under parental notification laws.) But I do thank you for steering us in the direction of considering real solutions from the real world that will work with real teens.
Take, for example, the fact that no reasonable person believes that teens will stop having sex because of a parental involvement law. Last we checked, most teenagers do not consult the law before initiating sexual activity. It's nonsensical to think that they would, and common sense dictates that we try to prepare them with accurate information and prevention tools so they can be safe. Katie, I'll also ask you to consider related research on parental involvement laws for contraception use, which shows that almost all sexually active teens do not stop having sex but many do stop using contraception. That is no way to curb abortion rates and no way to protect teens.
That's why I return to the fact that medical organizations, teachers and counselors all oppose Proposition 4. They know it won't work. One adolescent-medicine doctor has testified that one of her patients -- a scared, pregnant teenager -- delayed seeking care for months because "she just thought it would go away." It's this kind of wishful, adolescent thinking that can lead to dangerous situations. That's real.
That leads me to another incontrovertible fact: The presiding judge in that case you cite said that he found your use of the tragic case of "Sarah" (whose real name was Jammie Garcia Yanez-Villegas) "troubling." That's because your campaign has exploited a terrible case -- which happened in Texas in 1994 to a married mother who already had a child -- to build a nonsensical argument that will put California teens in real danger.
Katie, in Meghan's Law there is a real Megan, in Jessica's Law there is a real Jessica, and there's an Amber behind our Amber Alerts. But there is no "Sarah" behind this ballot initiative. It's not even a regular law -- it's a proposed state constitutional amendment -- and it will put vulnerable teens in harm's way.
California voters don't need more deception. That's why the San Jose Mercury News called Proposition 4 "the most deceptive measure on the California ballot" and why voting on this measure is so important.
California leads the nation in efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies. We've done that by living in the real world where sex education and healthcare access are the keys to prevention. We do hope you'll join us, Katie.
Miriam Gerace is a spokesperson for the No on 4 Campaign for Teen Safety and director of communications for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.