Pro-Life Groups Eye West Coast Win

Abortion opponents are hoping to plant their flag on the left-leaning West Coast in November, with parental notification measures on the ballot in both Oregon and California.
( [email protected] ) Oct 21, 2006 10:06 AM EDT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Abortion opponents are hoping to plant their flag on the left-leaning West Coast in November, with parental notification measures on the ballot in both Oregon and California.

In most of the rest of the country, anti-abortion advocates have persuaded voters or lawmakers to adopt such restrictions as mandatory waiting periods or bans on insurance coverage of abortions.

Oregon, Washington and California make up one of only two clusters of neighboring states that place virtually no restrictions on abortion. The other cluster consists of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

The three West Coast states have no bans on late-term abortions, pay for most medically necessary abortions for public employees, and do not require doctors to give women information on topics such as the potential psychological effects of abortion, or the pain a fetus might suffer.

Voters in Oregon and California have rejected parental notification measures in the past, and abortion-rights advocates say they can be persuaded to do so again.

Both proposals would require doctors to notify parents in writing if their under-18 daughters are seeking an abortion.

Both proposals contain exceptions for medical emergencies, but not in cases of rape or incest. Both would allow pregnant girls to seek a waiver from a judge, and both would require a 48-hour waiting period between the parental notification and the abortion. Doctors who fail to comply can be sued for damages and can lose their licenses.

Early polls suggest that parental notification is on its way to passing in both states. But TV advertising campaigns have just begun.

"Voters have a stable view of this," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the nonpartisan Field poll in California. "I suspect that when all is said and done, this will be close again."

Other liberal-leaning Western states are watching closely. Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, for example, donated $50,000 to the anti-parental-notification campaign in Oregon; the group's Hawaii affiliate gave $3,000.

"We don't want to see this in Washington state," said Kristen Glundberg-Prosser, Planned Parenthood of Western Washington's director of public affairs.

The West Coast measures are the second-most important front in the abortion wars this fall, said Melody Rose, a professor at Portland State University who is writing a book on abortion politics. The No. 1 issue is a referendum in South Dakota on whether to repeal the state's newly passed ban on abortion.

"The moderate, pro-choice folks on the West Coast have been able to rest easy knowing their states have laws that work for them," she said. "But what's happened in South Dakota is a rallying cry. And for the anti-abortion organizations to succeed with a major barrier to abortion on the West Coast would be a coup for them politically."

Oregon last considered parental notification in 1990, when the measure lost narrowly, getting 48 percent of the vote. California defeated parental notification last year, 53 percent to 47 percent.

"Sixteen years have gone by," said Sarah Nashif, manager of the pro-parental notification campaign in Oregon. "There's a completely different generation, different perspectives, different culture; 1990 is irrelevant to me."

Grace Powers, a church worker and mother from Roseburg, Ore., has spoken out in favor of the measure after her own daughter got an abortion without her knowledge.

"When I found out, I was in denial. I was sure someone had impersonated me or forged my signature," she said. "In our hometown, there are a lot of parents I talk to every week who don't know what the law is, and when they hear more, they say, `Of course, I will vote yes.'"

But Dr. Elizabeth Newhall, a Portland physician who is campaigning against the proposal, said it could hurt the most vulnerable girls, those who fear angering their parents or detailing the trauma of rape or incest before a judge.

"Kids take risks if they can't get confidential care," Newhall said. "They'll delay the procedure, travel to other states."

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