Senate Bill Draws the Line on Abortions : Girls Under 18 Would Have to Obtain Parental Consent or Court Order

Times Staff Writer

The Senate on Friday approved a bill that would prohibit girls under 18 years old from getting abortions without parental consent or a Superior Court order.

The bill, by Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-Whittier), went to the Assembly on a 22-11 vote over objections from some abortion rights advocates who argued that the age should be reduced to 13 before parental consent would be necessary.

Opponents maintain that the bill would be challenged in court, because it would infringe upon a young woman’s rights if her request for an abortion were turned down by a parent or court.

But the bill’s most difficult battle is expected to occur in the Assembly, where similar Senate-passed legislation perished during previous sessions.


Currently, parental consent is not required for an unmarried young woman under age 18 to obtain an abortion. Opponents of abortion long have insisted that a minor seeking such surgery should have parental consent.

But Montoya said that he is trying to “strike a balance” by enabling a minor to choose an abortion while at the same time involving her family in the decision.

Under the bill, a pregnant minor could seek court approval for an abortion if:

- Her parents refused to approve an abortion,


- Her parents were unavailable for consultation.

- She wanted to avoid confronting her parents.

Debate over the age issue erupted when Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) proposed an amendment that for purposes of the bill would define “minor” as anyone under the age of 14 rather than 18. The amendment failed on a 13-23 vote.

Torres asserted, “We as a policy-making body found in the past the age of 14 has been the dividing line between childhood and adulthood.”


But Montoya countered that specifying a minor as someone under 14 would open the door to claims of unconstitutionality because in the past both the Legislature and the courts have fixed 18 as the age of official adulthood for many circumstances. He said even national policy recognizes that “young people, men or women, are not even sufficiently mature to vote until they’re 18.”

Seen as Benefit

A supporter, Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), said the bill would benefit the family unit because ultimately parents will offer the care and support the minor needs in dealing with the abortion question.

“Young people are abusing the use of abortion. It is becoming tantamount to contraception. Why drive a wedge between parent and child?” Bergeson said.


But Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) said a recent nationwide study of teen-age pregnancy indicated that more than half of young, unmarried women who got pregnant would not discuss it with their parents. He also argued that the bill would mean that already overloaded Superior Courts would face more than 10,000 abortion hearings each year.

“Young people who would take advantage of the court proceedings would be upper-middle-class white kids,” Hart said, adding that other minors would probably flee to Tijuana “or back alleys” for abortions which he said would increase health risks.

Sen. Leroy Greene (D-Carmichael) charged that the Superior Court provision is “unworkable and meaningless” because “I don’t know too many 14, 15 or 16 year olds who are going to know how to go about petitioning to the Superior Court or who have the money to do that.”