Campus divided on controversial Prop. 4

Rachel Roth, Spring 2009 Staff Writer

Girls under the age of 18 can not get their ears pierced or go to a tanning salon without their parents’ permission, but they can get an abortion without parental consent.

Under the current State Constitution, minors have the same right to an abortion as adults. For the third time since 2005, voters will decide Nov. 4 if the law should remain the same, or be amended to require parental consent.

Betty Odello, philosophy professor at Pierce College — as well as a nurse, mother and grandmother — was surprised to learn her daughter could not take Aspirin at school without her consent, but could receive an abortion.

“As a parent, I would want to know,” she said. “An abortion is a very traumatic event in the life of a young woman and I think that the child needs support whatever her decision is.”

Odello, who recognizes that “it’s a problem,” thinks not all parents are as approachable as she was when her children were growing up. She said a minor’s opinion should be considered, but feels she does not necessarily have the right to make the decision without a parent’s knowledge or permission.

“Rights always include co-responsibility and duties,” she said. “A 14-year-old girl is provided food, transportation, clothes, everything by their parents. She certainly has a right to her opinion, no doubt about it, and we certainly want (young people) to grow and become independent.

“It is my opinion that kids are exposed to things at a much earlier age, but they are not growing up any faster,” Odello added.

What is Proposition 4?

If approved by voters, Prop. 4, officially titled Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy, could change the State Constitution regarding abortion for minors in the following ways:

The minor must wait 48 hours to obtain an abortion for the operating physician to contact her parents or legal guardian.

-Permits the physician to contact a different relative of the minor’s choosing, as long as the relative is over the age of 21 and the physician reports the parents to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.

-Allows parents or legal guardians to sign a waiver permitting the abortion, therefore waiving the waiting period and the need to be contacted by the physician.

-If a minor elects not to tell a parent, legal guardian or relative, she is allowed to file a petition with the juvenile courts. A judge can then decide, within 48 hours, if the minor is mature enough to make the decision on her own, or has cause not to inform her parents.

In 2005 and ’06, voters narrowly struck down similar proposals to amend the State Constitution. The climate around Pierce echos the divide within the state.

For some, like Pierce student Nicole Akhrem, it is a matter of freedom.

“My personal opinion is that we live in a pro-choice society. If a girl under the age of 18 gets pregnant and it’s not an option for her to get an abortion (because of her parents), then there really is no choice for her,” Akhrem said.

“It puts you in a place of hopelessness and that’s not something any girl needs to be,” she added.

Others, like Richard Turner, first-year student and kinesiology major, feel that kids are not always capable of making wise choices.

“There needs to be parental consent,” said Turner, who also opposes Prop. 4 on religious grounds. “It’s a big decision to make. I believe that if kids can do whatever they want to do, they are going to make a whole lot of bad decisions.”

Others still are undecided on the issue, including first-year student Todrika Barber, a broadcast and business major.

“I don’t know what I think about it yet. I’ve never been put in that position so I couldn’t even answer for another girl. I do have (a) friend who got an abortion. If she’d told her mom, her mom would have made her keep it and she wouldn’t have the dance career (she has today),” she said.

More information on Prop. 4 is available at www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov.