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Three times in the past six years California voters have been faced with ballot initiatives to determine whether the state should mandate parental notification prior to a minor terminating a pregnancy. Incredibly, the proponents of this dangerous initiative have ignored the voters and filed a fourth initiative. We must say no, No, NO, and NO AGAIN!
Parents rightfully want to be involved in their teenagers' lives, and the good news is that most teens do go to their parents when faced with an unintended pregnancy. But in the real world, parental notification laws don't work – no law can mandate family communication.
A scared pregnant teen who can't tell her parents isn't going to navigate a crowded court system and reveal intimate details about her life to an unfamiliar judge. In states with mandated notification and judicial bypass exceptions, the obstacles facing the teen are nearly insurmountable and force them to take matters into their own hands.
A scared pregnant teen doesn't need a judge; she needs a caring counselor and safe, quality medical care, without delay.
The Campaign for Teen Safety, a broad coalition of doctors, nurses, teachers, school counselors, labor, clergy, and civil rights organizations and thousands of parents were able to educate voters about these dangerous and deceptive initiatives.
Parents are the primary educators when it comes to teaching their sons and daughters about responsible sexual relationships. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, "Teens who are close to their parents and feel supported by them are more likely to abstain from sex, wait until they are older to begin having sex, have fewer sexual partners, and use contraception more consistently."
The best way to protect teens is to begin talking about responsible and appropriate sexual behavior from the time they are young and to foster an atmosphere that assures teens that they can always come to us if they have a problem.
When parental notification laws have been enacted in other states, the result has been teens postpone care until the second trimester, which is a more complex procedure.
This Bixby Center brief defines what California can learn from other states in the area of mandated parental notification and consent laws. Nationwide research is compared to California showing that California leads the nation with a higher rate of parental communication about sexual activity and a steeper decline in adolescent pregnancy, birth and abortion rates. The brief also draws conclusions about the dangerous actions teens are likely to take if parental notification were implemented in California.