Proposition 4: Constitutional Amendments for Sale


The rich want to spend their way into our California state Constitution.

For the
third time in nearly as many years, Californians will vote on whether to have
government-mandated parental notification for minors making abortion
decisions. Voters have twice rejected nearly identical measures,
defeating Proposition 73 in 2005 and Proposition 85 in 2006.  This third
bite at the apple is possible because Proposition 73, Proposition 85 and the
current Proposition 4 have all been bankrolled by two wealthy men bent on buying
a parental notice amendment to the California Constitution. Proposition 4
is an abuse of the initiative process.

Ironically, California’s
ballot initiative process arose as an attempt to wrest political power from
those cash-flush special interest groups who alone could afford access to
politics.  Californians intended the initiative process to permit
democracy by the many, not just the wealthy few. 

San Diego publisher James
Holman and Sonoma
winemaker Don Sebastiani funded the two prior ballot initiatives that would
have mandated parental involvement with abortion.  Apparently, they will
continue pouring money into anti-abortion initiatives despite repeated messages
from Californians that we wish to protect our privacy and our teenagers’
health.  Holman and Sebastiani provided slightly more than $3 million of
the total $3.8 million spent in favor of Proposition 85.  As of June 30 of
this year, Holman and Sebastiani had provided in excess of $2 million out of
the $2.3 million spent in support of Proposition 4.

When two wealthy individuals repeatedly seek to amend the California
Constitution they abuse the initiative process. This abuse is
particularly troubling because it targets our state’s founding legal
document.  Constitutional amendments are serious business. Once
enacted, an amendment to our Constitution cannot be altered by the legislature,
no matter how unworkable it turns out to be in practice. Proposition 4
would add 27 subsections of convoluted legal language to our Constitution, and would dictate
such fine points as the type of mail service physicians must use to provide
parental notice. 

California’s
Constitution already speaks about reproductive freedom, succinctly declaring
that all Californians possess certain inalienable rights including the
"right to privacy" in reproductive decisions. Over a decade
ago, the California Supreme Court concluded that the Constitutional right to
privacy protects a minor’s right to choose abortion. The court
carefully canvassed the evidence from other states with parental involvement
laws and found that these laws cause harm by creating delays that increase
second-trimester abortions and by exposing teenagers to family violence.

Supporters of Proposition 4 confuse and trivialize the issue when they
compare laws requiring parental notice for abortion to laws requiring parental
consent for ear piercing, visiting a tanning salon or obtaining aspirin from a
school nurse. Although we do mandate parental consent for many services
provided to minors, California
law does not in fact require
parental consent or notice for teenagers who seek access to contraception,
treatment for sexually transmitted infections or medical care for pregnancy and
childbirth. We exempt reproductive healthcare from mandated parental
involvement precisely because we recognize that failure to protect
physician-patient confidentiality in this sensitive area will only hurt the
teenagers we all seek to help.

As Californians understood in rejecting two similar initiatives before,
Proposition 4 endangers teenagers’ health.  The vast majority of
pregnant teens already discuss their decisions with a parent.  The 27
paragraphs of legalese Proposition 4 would add to the California Constitution
will not help scared teenagers and will only delay much needed healthcare for
our most vulnerable youth.   

Californians should send the message to James Holman, Don Sebastiani
and others with deep pockets that our Constitutional rights are not for sale to
the highest bidder.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.