Debra J. Saunders

  But the other side of the argument deals with teens who could tell their parents, but simply don't want to -- just as they wouldn't want to tell their folks if they cracked up the family SUV. Savvy teens know that they can avoid telling their parents they're pregnant and get a tax-funded abortion by pleading poverty -- whether they are poor or not. Their parents will never be the wiser. That represents, in the truest sense, government intrusion into families' lives.

  It is the parents, after all, who will have to pick up the pieces if there are any problems, rare though that may be, following a minor's abortion.

 In my mind, this measure is not about abortion, but parental rights. I agree with those proponents and opponents who have predicted that if Proposition 73 passes, there will be little change in either the number of abortions or teen pregnancies in California.

 As I see it, Planned Parenthood can help those teens who need a judicial waiver negotiate the legal system. On the other hand, pregnant teens from good homes who don't want to take on that hassle of going to court might be more likely to tell their folks. One hopes that their parents will ensure that they use birth control thereafter, and thus prevent repeat teen pregnancies.

 It is true: Some teens might be afraid to go to court. Morgan tells me Planned Parenthood won't have enough volunteers to usher teens throughout California to local courts. I say: then Planned Parenthood will have to choose which cases seem worthy.

 Allowing minors to have surgery without their parents' knowledge should be the exception, not the rule. As the late and liberal Justice Stanley Mosk wrote in a 1996 decision that upheld a parental consent law -- later overturned -- legal restrictions on minors "are premised on a fundamental social tenet that children require protection against their own immaturity and vulnerability in making decisions that may have serious consequences for their health and well-being."

  Instead, California law presumes that parents are less mature or sensitive than their children, if their daughters are pregnant. If the law won't trust parents of pregnant teens, then it can withhold decision-making in other areas, like education.

 If someone wants to devise a better way to write a law that protects parents' rights -- say, one that separates the kids who just don't want to tell their parents from those who dare not -- I am all ears.

Debra J. Saunders

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