Is Prop. 4 about parental rights or restricting abortion?

Today's question: Is Proposition 4 about protecting minors or narrowing abortion rights? Would it really protect children from predators, as some supporters say? Gerace and Short conclude their debate on Proposition 4, which would require doctors to notify parents before a minor receives an abortion.

In our corner, healthcare professionals. In the other, ideologues.
Point: Miriam Gerace

Proposition 4 puts teens at risk. To confirm this, check the organizations and individuals on both sides.

On the health and safety team, we have the California Medical Assn., the California Nurses Assn., the California Teachers Assn. and the California Academy of Family Physicians -- thousands of medical providers, caregivers and adolescent health experts. These are the people we trust to protect teenagers every day.

On the "yes" side, we find a rag-tag assortment of individuals with scarce care-giving credentials, if any.

You, Katie, are an author of Proposition 4; you also sit on the board of directors of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. Here's a sampling of other Proposition 4 supporters: the Family Research Council, Americans United for Life and anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly. You will also see on the list of supporters Dr. Joseph R. Zanga, who claims to speak for the American Academy of Pediatrics. But Zanga does not reside in California, is not a member of the academy's California branch and has never been authorized to speak on this issue on behalf of it. You will not find major healthcare associations or organizations such as Planned Parenthood supporting the measure.

That's worth some serious consideration.

For every $2 million that proponents spend supporting Proposition 4, we spend $6 million or more to defeat it because it threatens teen safety. This is money that could have gone toward providing preventive care such as cancer screenings, sex education, prenatal care and infant check-ups.

The real purpose behind Proposition 4 is twofold: to deny access to abortion and to close down Planned Parenthood. The movement to outlaw all abortions has new tactics. It's not just arson and protests, trespassing, bombings, death threats and murder anymore. Now, an open checkbook can limit services by dragging Planned Parenthood into the election fray. Voters can stop this by saying no to such an anti-abortion measure for a third time.

The attempt to undermine Planned Parenthood rests on horrible accusations. Katie, you will probably point to a harrowing case from Santa Clara and launch charges about Planned Parenthood protecting predators. The sad reality is that nothing in Proposition 4 would have helped the teen in this tragic, incestuous situation.

The reality is that Proposition 4 places huge burdens on scared, pregnant teens with no regard for their real-world safety. The initiative's "option" for teens from violent or abusive homes is so preposterous that The Times editorialized on Thursday that "it's like telling a teen to go to police station and arrest her parents."

Then of course, there's the other "option" of going to court. Click here to read about the incredibly complicated and lengthy process that a minor would have to follow if she were to choose to go to court. This route has been characterized by the San Francisco Chronicle as "cumbersome to the point of cruelty." Many of the newspapers that have endorsed on this measure have taken a position against Proposition 4.

Let's remember that in the majority of cases, teens already include one or both of their parents in their decisions about an unplanned pregnancy (pdf). Right now, if a teen needs to lean on a sister, grandmother or aunt, she can do so without any barriers between her and professional, caring individuals. Proposition 4 would put hurdles before teens who need timely, compassionate care. Please vote "no."

Miriam Gerace is a spokesperson for the No on 4 Campaign for Teen Safety and director of communications for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.

How many child predators has Planned Parenthood gotten locked up?
Counterpoint: Katie Short

Yes, readers, please do look at Miriam's link to the "rag-tag assortment of individuals" who endorse Proposition 4. It starts with some district attorneys and some doctors, including a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. (Miriam, where did you get the idea that Zanga was claiming to speak for the academy's California branch? Planned Parenthood just made that up so it could say we were liars.)

On the other side, we see the leadership of several organizations that don't speak for their individual members. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics itself admitted that half of its members support parental notification laws. Much less do these leaders speak for the many healthcare providers who choose not to join these groups precisely because of the way the leadership uses their position to advance a political agenda. Moreover, groups such as the California Nurses Assn. and California Teachers Assn. are actually unions that routinely support or oppose initiatives for political reasons.

Planned Parenthood is bankrolling the opposition with millions of dollars recycled from the taxpayers. It needs to spend this much money because parental notification laws enjoy substantial public support. Therefore, Planned Parenthood has to scare voters into voting against common sense by playing on outlandish fears about girls seeking back-alley abortions.

As was made amply clear right here in the last two days, despite the fact that parental involvement laws are in effect in more than 30 states (covering 60% of the nation's population), Planned Parenthood can't point to a single case of a girl being harmed. Yet this week it started bombarding voters with ads warning about girls getting back-alley abortions. Who is being deceptive here?

The criticism of the alternative family member notification is what reveals Planned Parenthood's true agenda. It told us that girls from abusive homes would be harmed if a parent was notified. Proposition 4 addresses that very situation by allowing the girl to have an abortion without a parent being notified but also ensuring that she gets the help she needs. Planned Parenthood and its media echo chamber then insult the professionals who deal knowledgeably and sensitively with troubled families every day by suggesting that the response will be jack-booted cops showing up at the girl's front door.

For Planned Parenthood, there is no substitute for simply giving a girl a secret abortion and sending her back to her abusive home with no one any the wiser.

Planned Parenthood's real agenda is hanging on, at whatever cost, to the ideal of unrestricted abortion on demand. The only thing that matters is "a woman's right to choose," even if that "woman" is a 13-year-old girl being coerced to have an abortion by an adult male predator.

The Santa Clara case you mention, Miriam, is a perfect example of what is supposed to be the deal-breaker situation for parental notification: What if the man was a relative in the girl's own home? What happens without Proposition 4? Planned Parenthood looked the other way, the girl had the abortion, and the man continued to sexually abuse her for months more until her mother happened to find out. This is the status quo Planned Parenthood wants to preserve.

What would have happened with Prop 4? The mother would have been notified, the girl would have been spared more anguish and sexual abuse, and the man would have ended up in jail a lot sooner.

We have documented many other cases of abortion providers not turning in predators. Please name some predators who have been prosecuted because of a report by Planned Parenthood in California. No, don't tell me you are all mandated reporters, because people don't realize how narrow the mandated reporting laws are and how, as one of your speakers once delicately put it, girls seeking abortions are "informed about the limits of confidentiality." (Translation: They are told not to reveal the ages of their "partners.") Just name some predators who are sitting in jail because someone in your clinic turned them in. Please.

Katie Short, coauthor of Proposition 4, is the legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation.