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An unnecessary law.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Abortion opponents believe it's only a matter of time - and perhaps one more Supreme Court vacancy during the Bush administration - before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the United States will be overturned. In the meantime, anti-abortion groups will continue their largely successful efforts to enact incremental restrictions that limit access to abortions or make them harder to obtain.

Oregon voters will see one such effort on the November ballot. The Parental Involvement and Support Act would require 48-hour written notice to parents before a girl younger than 18 could obtain an abortion.

If the issue seems vaguely familiar, it's because Oregonians narrowly rejected a similar measure when it appeared on the ballot 16 years ago. Now the parental notification bandwagon has rolled back into the state, and supporters are optimistic about its chances - with good reason.

Arguing against allowing parents to help their minor daughters deal with the emotional trauma of pregnancy and abortion doesn't make sense to most people. Supporters of notification insist that if parents must give consent before their children can receive an aspirin at a school clinic, then parents should be informed before their daughters undergo an invasive and irreversible surgical procedure such as an abortion. Even among abortion rights advocates, support for parental notification is strong.

That's why abortion opponents have been able to win passage of parental notification/permission laws in 44 states. Oregon remains among the half-dozen holdouts without any restrictions.

As reasonable as parental notification may sound, the reality often differs dramatically from the rhetoric. The experts who oppose parental notification laws are not extremists. They include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

What would make pediatricians or family doctors leery of a law requiring that parents be informed of their teenage daughter's intention to terminate a pregnancy? A lot, actually. While these physicians would be strong advocates for healthy parent-child communication, they also know from experience that some of their teenage patients live in dysfunctional, abusive families.

The number of teens who risk physical abuse or abandonment for reporting a pregnancy to a parent is significant. Those adolescents will avoid taking any action, increasing their health risks. Delaying an abortion by only a few days increases the possibility of medical complications arising. Clinic and hospital abortions before the third trimester are far safer than childbirth, especially for teens.

The Oregon ballot measure includes a "bypass" to the 48-hour notification requirement, in which a girl could ask an administrative law judge in a private hearing to waive the requirement if the girl is mature enough to give her own informed consent for the abortion or if it's not in her best interest for a parent to be informed of the impending procedure. That's a reasonable accommodation, but it's attached to an unnecessary law.

It's impossible to pass a law requiring Oregon families to maintain healthy parent-child communication in a supportive home environment, and the initiative's sponsors know that. This initiative - like companion laws at the federal level that would criminalize efforts to get around notification requirements - is intended entirely to inhibit access to abortion.

Such efforts would be much better spent on ballot measures providing Oregon women of child-bearing age nonprescription access to emergency contraception. Preventing pregnancy is the most effective way to reduce the need for abortions.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Parental notification measure can't fix families
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 28, 2006
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