October 17, 2008

Commentary:

Prop. 4: Strengthening the Family

By Vince Vasquez

This Election Day, California voters will enter the ballot booth and decide whether pregnant teenage girls should have stronger parental involvement prior to an abortion. Supporting a new mainstream policy will safeguard the emotional and physical health of young Latinas in our community.

At issue is Proposition 4, the statewide ballot initiative that seeks to provide common-sense parental notification before the termination of a minor’s pregnancy. Prop. 4 squarely confronts the need to reduce teen pregnancies in the Golden State, which has recently been on the rise; in 2006, there were 52,770 teenage births in California. Though most young mothers choose to keep their baby, thousands do not, which can lead to harmful emotional and physical consequences. When making an adult decision like choosing to have an abortion, pregnant teens should have the advice of a parent or another adult in their family. Adolescents are not equipped to make the right decisions on their own, and need the emotional support and counseling of a parent or family member who will care for them at a sensitive time in their lives - that is why voters should say Yes to Proposition 4.

Teen pregnancies are an issue that disproportionately affects Latino families. According to a 2003 study from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), two out of every three babies born to California teens are born to Latinas. In San Diego County, teenage Latinas gave birth at a rate of 67 babies per 1,000 female teens, a trend that’s significantly higher than African-American teens (34.8 per 1,000) and Caucasians (11.5 per 1,000). Though we celebrate new life in our society, the prospects for teenage mothers, who are predominantly unmarried, are dim. Studies have shown that these young girls are more likely to drop out of high school, have higher poverty rates and greater dependence on government assistance programs. Nor do their newborns fare well in the future; PPIC research also found in 2007 that children of teen mothers are more likely to be abused and less healthy than other children, and as adults are less educated, more impoverished, and more likely to be involved in criminal activity.

No pregnant teen, whether she is Latina or any other ethnicity, should feel like she must handle her pregnancy alone. From grandmother to mother, family members want the best for our teenagers. Parents have a reasonable need to be informed if their daughter chooses to have an abortion, especially as post-operative care is critical to looking for infections and health complications that may warrant additional medical attention. Proposition 4 encourages better decisions from our young people, and reasserts the importance of proper family planning.

Parental notification is a mainstream and effective health policy in America; more than thirty states have some type of family involvement protection in cases of a minor’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. Contrary to the claims of critics, these measures are having a positive impact on the physical health of teens. Family involvement states, which are home to more than 60% of the U.S. population, have lower rates of teen pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted infections than states without these laws.

It’s important to note that Proposition 4 also safeguards teens from potential problems at home. In rare cases, some teens fear physical abuse and violence if they notify their mother or father about an abortion. If a girl reports this abuse to her physician, she may be permitted to notify another adult family member or obtain a bypass waiver from a judge. The intent is to make sure that no teenage girl will make this important life-changing decision alone.

Proposition 4 is a balanced measure that will keep Latina teens safe and healthy, and provide a solid foundation for stronger families in every neighborhood. Our children deserve better, and need our support to help build a brighter future for them. This Election Day, local voters can make a positive difference in our community by saying Yes on Prop. 4.

Vince Vasquez is a senior analyst with the Yes on Proposition 4 Campaign, and a San Diego resident.

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage