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Proposition 73


I'm mostly trying to avoid posting about contentious political issues here at the moment, because I'm being even more conflict-averse than usual and am not up for a fight.

But I think this one's worth mentioning.

The California Secretary of State's 2005 Initiative Update page provides information on all the propositions that will appear on the ballot in the California special election next month.

Among those is Proposition 73 (warning: that link is to a PDF file): "Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor's Pregnancy," a proposed amendment to the state constitution.

But I'm not going to argue one way or t'other about whether a waiting period and parental notification are good things. The part of the proposition that I think needs more attention is this, from the state Attorney General's official summary:

Defines abortion as causing “death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born.”

That aspect of the proposition isn't mentioned in the micro-summary at the beginning of the voter pamphlet, and I don't think it's mentioned in the arguments for and against the proposition. But it seems to me that it's probably the most far-reaching part of the proposition. I could be wrong, but it leads me to suspect that this proposition isn't primarily about pregnant minors; I suspect it's primarily about defining a fetus as a child in the state constitution.

So I would recommend that people pay close attention to that clause when deciding which way to vote on this proposition.

For a lot more info about the proposition (including California's history with the issue of minors and notification, and a sort of comparison to other states), see the San Francisco Chronicle's coverage.

Note: Please don't use this entry's comments section as a forum to debate pro-choice vs pro-life views. If the proposition were titled "Definition of Abortion," I wouldn't be posting about it. I'm posting because I think an extremely important clause is being presented as something relatively minor, and I wanted to draw attention to that.

Point being, if y'all start posting inflammatory comments on either side of the abortion debate, I'll shut down comments on this entry. So please don't.


I read this to Stephen this morning while he was getting ready for work, and he had this point to make (not an exact quote):

Based on that one sentence and not having read the full proposition, it also redefines the term "abortion". Since intent is not factored in, accidentally causing a miscarriage (ingesting something not knowing that it's an abortifacient or clumsily falling down stairs) could also count as an abortion for the purposes of this law.

I should also say that I'm not a lawyer, nor is Stephen.

I have intimate experience with abortion politcs, have had for the past ten years. All kinds of nasty things can be snuck in under the radar, for the sheer purpose of establishing precedent and the restructuring of legal language. It's all part of that foot in the door policy. Good for you for noticing that, Jed.

Am I incorrect in reading that text as also defining abortion to include IUDs and oral contraceptives that work by preventing implantation of a fertilized (conceived) egg?

It seems to me that a constitutional amendment is drastic approach. We are locking in a permanent, statewide, one-size-fits-all mandate. That's really troubling. It's not just some little law. It's a constitutional amendment that applies to every family in California. Forever.

Parents want to do what's best for their children. I know I do. And parents want to work it out themselves. Amending the constitution is not going to help parents build better families.

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