When it Comes to Preventing Teen Pregnancy, Talk’s Not Cheap But Notification Laws Are

Dian Harrison is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate. This is the first of a series of posts about California's Parental Notification Ballot Inititiative.

October is "Let's Talk Month." It's a great opportunity to let the young people in your life know that you are there for them and ready to help, even when they are facing issues that can be tough to talk about, like sexual health.

Research has shown that teens that have good communication with their families are more likely to delay becoming sexually active and are also more likely to be safe if they do become active. 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."

We counsel the teens who visit our health centers to talk with their parents about the issues they are facing, whether they are considering becoming sexually active, seeking birth control, or terminating an unintended pregnancy. Studies have shown that the vast majority of teens involve a parent when they are facing an unintended pregnancy.

Parental Notification Laws, like California's Prop 85 and Oregon's Measure 43, Just Don't Work

Unfortunately, there are some teens that come from abusive homes where it's just not safe to discuss sensitive issues, like an unintended pregnancy. That's why laws that require parental notification before abortion, like Proposition 85 in California and Measure 43 in Oregon, are a bad idea.

Parents rightfully want to be involved in the lives of their teens, but not all teens come from supportive homes. Teens that don't turn to their parents usually have a very good reason for not doing so, such as fear for their physical safety. Rather than going to an abusive parent, some teens will seek an illegal back-alley abortion, try to self-abort, or even consider suicide.

These laws may look like a good communication tool at first glance, but don't be fooled! Notification laws don't help families communicate and they don't reduce teen pregnancy as proponents claim. All they do is put our most vulnerable teens in danger.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "…mandating parental notification does not achieve the intended benefit of promoting family communication, but it does increase the risk of harm to the adolescent by delaying access to appropriate care."

A recent study by the N.Y. Times found that parental notification and consent laws have not reduced teen pregnancy in the states where they are enacted.

That's why the people who work with teens every day, such as the California Teachers Association, the California Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Planned Parenthood, all oppose Proposition 85.

The groups supporting 85 are all anti-choice groups that are furthering their political agenda at the expense of California's most vulnerable teens. Backers of 85 include Right to Life of Central California, the Traditional Values Coalition and Evangelicals for Social Action. The primary sponsor, Catholic publishing magnate James Holman, was also the main backer of last year's failed Proposition 73.

Family communication has to start at home and it has to start early, before an unintended pregnancy can take place. Combined with comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education and access to contraception, it can work wonders when it comes to preventing teen pregnancy. In California, we have been able to reduce the teen pregnancy rate by 46% over the past decade without dangerous notification laws.

Help spread the word, good family communication starts with a conversation, not a law. Reject parental notification laws and help keep teens safe!

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