Panel Backs Bill on Teen Abortion : In Favor of Requiring Minors to Have Parental Consent

Times Staff Writer

A 22-year-old San Diego woman stood before the state Family Planning Advisory Board on Friday, and in an emotional speech told its members of her secret decision to have an abortion at the age of 14.

Although board members quietly listened to the woman's story, earlier that morning they had already decided that abortions without parental consent should be illegal in California.

The board voted 5 to 4 to support controversial legislation that would require doctors to obtain a parent's consent before performing abortions on minors.

The panel, which meets about four times a year, advises the state Department of Health Services on family planning issues. Friday's meeting was the first advisory session the board has held since the Deukmejian Administration cut the number of advisers in half and appointed 11 new members.

Many Democratic legislators had charged that the administration stacked the board with people who passed "an anti-abortion ideology test."

Many of the nearly 100 people who attended Friday's meeting in San Diego agreed that most board members opposed abortions. Some accused Chairwoman Helen McCullough of allowing insufficient pubic comment on the bill before voting on it.

"The board is heavily weighted in favor of anti-choice," said January Riddle, president of San Diego's National Organization for Women chapter. "They allowed no public comment and passed measures through."

The parental consent bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Don Sebastiani (R-Sonoma), is in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. No hearing date has been set.

Some opponents say passage of the bill would only result in more teen-age mothers or force teen-agers to seek illegal abortions, but supporters say they like the bill because they believe it would strengthen family ties.

McCullough praised the bill and denied that she pushed the vote through the board. She said the close vote indicated that not everyone on the advisory board opposes abortions.

"It's a misconception that the board is one-voice, one-mind," she said. "The board felt that the parents should have a voice in the decision-making process.

"We are talking about minors. If that same minor had to have surgery for any other reason, they would have to have parental consent."

Sara Moser, an adviser for Planned Parenthood, said the legislation is not intended to promote mutual decision-making between parents and children, but to provide a way for parents to find out whether their teen-agers are sexually active.

She also said that the law would discriminate against women because teen-age boys would not be required to notify their parents.

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